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Archive for Sunday, April 21, 2002

Wallace wins defensive honor

April 21, 2002

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— Just about everyone agreed that Ben Wallace had a sensational defensive season.

The NBA confirmed that Saturday when Detroit's forward won the Defensive Player of the Year award by a record-setting margin. Wallace received 116 of 120 votes (96.7 percent) to become the first Pistons player to win the award since Dennis Rodman in 1991.

Kevin Garnett finished second with two votes, and Kobe Bryant and Dikembe Mutombo had the other two. The next-largest vote percentage was Alonzo Mourning's 75.4 percent in 1999.

"I've built my whole career around playing defense and rebounding, so there's no better feeling than to win this award," Wallace said.

Wallace became the fourth player in league history to lead the league in rebounds (13.0 per game) and blocked shots (3.5), joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.

While those three players were all picked first in the NBA draft after being college superstars, Wallace was undrafted out of Virginia Union.

Wallace finished fifth in the voting in 2001, but was not named to the league's three All-Defense teams. Mourning or Mutombo had won the award every year since 1997.

Almost all of Wallace's teammates crammed into the small room to see him get the trophy.

Wallace and the Pistons take on Olajuwon's Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs starting tonight.

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