Today is the birthday of NBA champion, 4 x All-Star and 4 x Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. Me and a friend were discussing his very successful and surprising career and it was only a matter of time until we went back in time to 1997, when a 19-year-old Kobe Bryant posterized an unknown Big Ben during a preseason game after crossing his Bullets' teammate Jimmy Oliver.
My friend pulls up a crappy quality copy of the dunk on YouTube and I tell him a story about me and my college roommates (shout out to Emmy Award-winning Ryan Young on CNN) all jumping off a couch at the same time when we saw the dunk back in 97. I then told him about Kobe's second half ankle-breaking move that led to a pretty wide open dunk because Ben didn't want anything to do with Kobe after that first half dunk. I can see it in his eyes he thinks I'm making this up and wants proof from 18 years ago.
I dig in my closet for the VHS tape labeled '97 Lakers' and find the very first time this dunk was shown on ESPN Sportscenter and there it was: Kobe crossing Jimmy Oliver and then introducing himself to Ben Wallace in the first half and Kobe once again making Jimmy Oliver look bad by making him do a split before throwing down a baseline dunk that had the late great Chick Hearn and the Lakers bench celebrating.
The video clip was an in-game update but if you actually care who won the game, the Lakers did 123-121 in OT.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 28, 2020
Maybe the best thing to come from that dunk was it motivated Ben to become the beast he became.
"Without that dunk, I don't know if I'm the player that I am today," Ben said to Rick Kamla "After that, I told myself 'Ben, that's never gonna happen again'. And you know what? It didn't."
(VIDEO: Check out Ben Wallace's dunk before getting dunked on + a rare alternate angle of the infamous dunk)
The Greatest Undrafted NBA Player Ever! pic.twitter.com/jeznuIjoqV
— David Astramskas (@redapples) September 10, 2023