Over the past two seasons I’ve spent covering the NBA, no player comes close to playing with the passion and flat out reckless abandon Gerald Wallace does. During the course of the game you can find him flying through the air for a thunderous dunk, diving for a loose ball, getting hammered on a trip through the paint or running amok under the basket like a bull in a china shop while trying to snag a loose rebound.
Watching Wallace play it becomes clear he has very little concern for his safety, the only thing he’s thinking about is playing hard and helping his team secure a win.
“Gerald (Wallace) has no regard for his body,” Emeka Okafor bragged to Hoops Addict between laughs. “He just doesn’t care. He sacrifices for the team and he’s clearly our energy guy. He’s out there flying and diving and doing whatever he can to win. When you see that it just gives you energy to keep you going.”
Playing with passion is one thing, but Wallace is also leading his team since Jason Richardson was dealt to Phoenix. And it’s not even coming the easy way by sitting on the perimeter to launch three-pointers or by spotting up for easy jumpers. That isn’t Wallace’s style. Instead, you’ll find him soaring through the air for thunderous dunks or getting hammered on his way through the lane and earning his points at the free throw line.
It takes a lot to impress legendary head coach Larry Brown, but after a recent win against Toronto where Wallace earned 12 of his teams 13 free throw attempts the veteran coach was downright giddy when describing the play from his star forward over the past week.
“He’s been phenomenal. He’s been a warrior. We don’t beat Sacramento if he doesn’t play. When he went down, none of us thought he was going to play. Then he warmed up at halftime and wanted to play. He’s been amazing. We have a lot of guys who are playing at a really high level and I’m really proud of this team.”
Is this style of play something new for Wallace? Not a chance, it’s the same way he’s been playing since he arrived in Charlotte. In fact, it’s the reason why the hard nosed forward earned the nickname Crash.
Playing with reckless abandon has become synonymous with Wallace so much so that when he does hit the deck his teammates no longer worry about if he’ll bounce back up.
“That stuff doesn’t surprise me with Gerald (Wallace),” teammate Raymond Felton boasted to the media. “He’s one of those guys who takes some of the hardest falls ever and he just gets right back up. So when he does stuff like that I just figure he’s going to get right back up. I don’t worry about it.”
So, why does Wallace risk his career and health? Because it provides his team with the spark they need to win games.
“We feed off that, no question,” Felton told the media while relaxing at his locker after a big win against Toronto. “He’s a guy who plays hard and he motivates you to play hard because when you have a guy busting it the way he does you’ve got to want to play with him the way he plays.”
Some may think of this as reckless, the reality of the matter is this is the only way Wallace knows to play the game. He’s been told countless times to slow down on the court because it will add longevity to his career but the face of the Bobcats is having too much fun to even consider it.
Not only that, but he realizes his teammates need the energy and spark his style of play provides.
“My thing is to always try to attack and play ball,” Wallace explained after a big win against Toronto on Friday. “I kind of look at it as if I get a start (then) I’m going to attack and get the energy going right from the start and that’s how our team flows the entire game. I had to get them going tonight knowing that this was an important game for us on the road. In Minnesota we came out lackadaisical and they ended up whipping out butts. We didn’t want that happening again (tonight).”
What comes with that energy is a tendency to hit the floor a couple of times each game. Remember those Dwyane Wade commercials where he talks about falling down seven times and getting back up eight times? This would have been a more suiting campaign for any game Wallace plays in.
While Wallace normally finds himself crashing into cameramen or hitting the floor hard throughout the course of a game, instead of concern this fact brings up laughter from his teammates. While it’s a joking matter it’s also something they respect about Wallace for his willingness to put his body on the line each game.
“Never,” Felton responded between laughs after being asked if he would ever witness a game where Wallace wouldn’t hit the floor hard. “He’s going to fall hard at least five times during the course of a game. And that’s an understatement.”
It’s not just his teammates, Wallace loves his reputation as a guy who often hits the deck.
“If I ever had a game where I didn’t hit the floor? I’d be pissed off, man. I’m used to hitting the floor a couple of times. If I ain’t hitting the floor I’m mad. That ain’t right, something is wrong. I’ll need to talk to the ref about that.”
Will Wallace ever slow down to extend his career and prevent his body from enduring a pounding each game? Not a chance. While some players are able to coast and take it easy, this just isn’t the way Wallace is wired.
In his mind, he can rest during the summer or when he retires.
“I just play ball,” Wallace told Hoops Addict. “If I play for 20 years then that’s by the grace of God. If I play for 10 years then that’s by the grace of God. God has a plan for everybody, He might not want me to play a long career in the NBA. My thing is while I’m playing I’m going to have fun. I’m going to play basketball and do what I love to do. If my career ends short then hopefully I’ll be able to go out and find something else to do. But other than that I’m going to keep playing the way I want to play.”
In an era where players are trying to make their careers last as possible, Wallace serves as a breath of fresh air because he wants to enjoy every moment that he’s on the court.
Career longevity be damned.