Before Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, Rasheed Wallace famously guaranteed a Detroit Pistons victory. Luckily, the Pistons made good on Wallace’s vow—or, as it’s become known, his “Guaransheed.”
The Pistons tied the series and eventually dominated the Pacers to advance to the NBA Finals, where they beat the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers to win their first title since 1990.
Wallace, who played in Air Force 1 Highs most of his career, wore a pair of white and blue AF 1s with his signature fadeaway jumper silhouette on the heel and, of course, with the strap dangling during those Finals. He doesn’t keep many pairs from big games, except for one.
“I have this particular shoe with blood stains, marked all up sitting in my office,” says Wallace. “I always look at it everyday.”
Before the NBA Playoffs begin later this week, Nike, Converse, and Jordan Brand are celebrating 16 iconic moments in league history and some of the players, including Wallace, with its new “Champions Think 16” collection. The pack features basketball-themed retros—some models that are being reissued for the first time—including Wallace’s Air Force 1 High Retro “Rude Awakening.”
During a media preview Monday at Nike HQ, where the “Champions Think 16” collection was presented in a gallery-like installation complete with custom artworks that were hung above the sneakers, Wallace, a 16-year NBA vet, spoke about his sneaker, how he thinks the ‘04 Pistons would fare in the NBA today, his famous “Ball don’t lie” line, and more.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
You obviously chose the Air Force 1 High.
Two of my bread and butters are my ankle and knee. That’s why I always wore high-tops. I had to protect my ankles no matter if I taped my ankles or wore ankle braces. I gotta protect my ankles. Gotta protect the money maker. That’s why I’ve always rocked the Air Force 1s. Of course, I put in orthotics in there ‘cause these joints is flat. They’ll kill your feet.
A lot of times you let the strap hang.
It’s a Philly thing. That’s things my brothers did and a lot of my old heads did growing up in Philly. That was sort of our signature with the Air Force 1.
The artwork for your sneaker by Dexter Mauerer shows the championship belt you wore everywhere after you guys won the ‘04 Finals. Do you still have that belt?
Yeah, I still got mine.
You got one for the rest of the team too, right? Where did you even get that?
It was an idea that I came up with ‘cause I wanted us to stand out. Of course everyone gets the rings and we were too grown to go old school letterman jackets so I came up with something different, thinking outside the box.
People walking down the street would just say 'Ball don’t lie.' It can get a little irking sometimes if I’m in a basketball community, like going to a high school or college game. But yeah, out in public normally, nah it doesn’t.
Do you still have the blue and white Air Force 1s you wore when you won the ‘04 Finals?
I have this particular shoe with blood stains, marked all up sitting in my office. I always look at it everyday.
How do you think the ‘04 Pistons would fare in the NBA today?
Oh, we would crush ‘em. We could crush it ‘cause we played defense. That’s what we hung our hat on night in and night out was defense. We not gon’ let no one come in and score 140 something points or let one individual player score 55 points. Nah, that’s not happening.
You’re big on Air Force 1s. Did you get any of the recent Air Force 1 releases, like the Roc-A-Fella joints?
No I haven’t. Not yet. I gotta wait until the next wave or next batch come in, but I’ll eventually get to it.
You’re on KG’s show Area 21 quite a bit. You guys went to ASW and talked to the players about their fits. Did you see the memes that people were making about KG?
Nah. I didn’t. I missed it ‘cause we were working. I didn’t get a chance to check it out on social media. They was killin’ him? [Laughs.]
Ahhh. You know that social media can be a harsh thing, man [Laughs].
Would you do your own show like that or co-host with KG?
I would if the opportunity comes up. It’s pretty fun to do. You get to express your opinion. It’s not necessarily like you have to say what everybody else is saying. I get to say my own thing.
What do you think about the legacy of “Ball don’t lie?” I’m sure people still come up to you to this day and say that line to you.
Oh yeah, I still get it. People walking down the street would just say “Ball don’t lie.” I kinda feel like Bobby McFerrin, the mastermind behind “Don’t worry, be happy.” I read in an interview somewhere that he hates that song because everybody always saying it to him. It can get a little irking sometimes if I’m in a basketball community, like going to a high school or college game. But yeah, out in public normally, nah it doesn’t.
I’ve always wondered about that famous press conference where you said “both teams played hard.” Why was that your response, ‘cause you guys won that game?
I was going through a personal thing there with the NBA and David Stern and I was getting fined for things I was saying no matter if it was about the referees, coaches, or whatever. I was getting fined. So then I was like, “I’m getting tired of getting fined so I just won’t say nothing.” So then I started getting fined for not saying nothing.
You were getting fined for everything and anything. You even got a technical for staring at a ref.
Yeah. I was on that list. So that’s when I came up with “both teams played hard.” I’m saying something, but I’m not saying what you want me to say.
You made the “Guaransheed” but you don’t see players doing that much now in the playoffs. Why do you think that is?
It’s a different era, different times. I would say now it’s more up and down. As I mentioned, scoring 130 or 140 points a game…Back then there was a little bit more pride. Now, you have guys who go out and give up 55 points to one player and then in the locker room or on the bus joking, haha-ing and hehe-ing. Nah, in our era it wasn’t like that.
Why do you think that shift is happening? Why do you think that’s cool because that wasn’t cool back in the day?
I’m not sure to be honest. I couldn’t even tell you. But i know that’s something we took a little bit more seriously, in our era. We took that loss a bit more seriously. No matter if it was a loss by 30 points or 1 point. We took it serious.
Do you think there’s a player in the NBA now that has that intensity and skill you brought to the game?
Yeah, I see it in a lot of the veteran players. I see it a lot in KD, you see it a lot in LeBron, you see it a lot in D. Wade when he was able to play and when he was healthy. It’s there, but I think it’s more in the veteran players. The younger guys haven’t had that experience, you know, fighting in them dog fights unlike those veteran guys.