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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the NBA’s future still so uncertain, we look again to the past, polishing up our Dunk History series — with a twist. If you are in need of a momentary distraction from the state of an increasingly isolated world, remember with us some of the most electrifying baskets and improbable buckets in the game’s history, from buzzer-beaters to circus shots. This is Sunk History.
Today, we revisit Rasheed Wallace’s ‘one-in-a-million’ buzzer-beater.
[Dunk History, collected: Our series on the most scintillating slams of yesteryear]
Leave it to Rasheed Wallace to gift us the most nonchalant reaction to “a one-in-a-million shot.”
The man who gave us “ball don’t lie” and “both teams played hard” also delivered, “It isn’t like it won a championship or anything,” after drilling a 62-foot heave as time expired in regulation of an overtime win.
Carmelo Anthony’s Denver Nuggets led the Detroit Pistons 98-95 following a pair of Allen Iverson free throws. Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups missed his chance to answer, and the Nuggets corralled the rebound in the final seconds. For some reason, Nuggets coach George Karl called for a timeout with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock, setting up an unnecessary game-ending inbounds pass at midcourt.
Inside Detroit’s huddle, coach Flip Saunders reportedly told his charges, “Strange things happen. We might as well try to get something crazy,” and the Pistons executed that game plan to perfection.
Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince denied Marcus Camby’s entry pass intended for Anthony, and Wallace went to work. The four-time All-Star corralled the loose ball and launched it two-handed toward the basket, banking home one of the most unlikely buzzer-beaters ever to send an NBA game into overtime.
As the rest of the Pistons erupted, Wallace simply spun toward the bench and held his index finger aloft.
“We shoot those all the time before the game,” Wallace told reporters after the game, as his teammates’ locker-room celebration muffled his joke about calling glass from beyond halfcourt. “This one went in, but it isn’t like it won a championship or anything.”
It is nice to know Sheed reacts to all-time shots much the same way I imagine he does a trashcan toss.
Detroit was in the midst of five straight Eastern Conference finals appearances, nearly three removed from its 2004 title, but Wallace’s long triple was a feat unto itself. Nobody saw it coming, especially Karl. Denver’s coach was not alone. Pistons fans inside The Palace had already begun heading for the exits during the last-second timeout, and the Nuggets were leaving the court before Wallace fired the shot.
“I’m sure George is second-guessing himself for calling that timeout,” Saunders told gathered media afterward, per the Associated Press. “But that’s a one-in-a-million shot. It might never happen again.”
Wallace scored eight of his 22 points in the final 2:19 of overtime, including another game-tying 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining in an eventual 113-109 win, and the Nuggets were not happy about it.
“You could give him a hundred and he wouldn’t make one, but he made one,” Karl told reporters after the game, apparently never having seen Wallace practice them. “I personally would have liked the ball to be thrown more toward the rim or the corner, but you can’t criticize a lucky shot. That was a lucky shot.”
“Sheed hit that shot,” Anthony added, via The Denver Post. “It was a lucky shot. It was luck.”
Wallace did not seem to be bothered by the blatant disrespect for his tried-and-true heaving abilities.
As he told the press following his iconic shot, “I’ll take it either way.”
Rasheed Wallace, one of the great philosophers of our generation, let the ball tell the truth.
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