Ben Wallace Is a Hall of Famer, but His Signature Shoe Belongs in the Hall of Shame

Ben Wallace made history over the course of his 16-year NBA career. The four-time Defensive Player of the Year with the Detroit Pistons is the first undrafted player to make the Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s also the only player in NBA history with more blocks than fouls as well as more steals than turnovers.

He also might have one of the worst signature shoes in NBA history.

As Wallace enters the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, memories re-emerge about Big Ben’s shoes that weren’t nearly as cool and tough as he was.

Ben Wallace’s budget-friendly shoe was released in 2007

After a six-year run with the Detroit Pistons headlined by four All-Star appearances and an NBA championship, Wallace signed a three-year, $46 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. A year later, he announced a new signature shoe under the Starbury label, becoming the first athlete endorser not named Stephon Marbury to join the brand.

“What Starbury is all about – trying to get kids to realize great sneakers and clothes can be affordable and cool,” Wallace said at the time of the announcement. “That’s really important, and I am looking forward to representing the Movement on and off the court.”

The Starbury Big Ben shoes were available exclusively at Steve & Barry’s, a retail clothing store which at the time operated over 270 stores in 39 states. And at only $14.98, they were among the cheapest basketball shoes on the market.

Wallace’s shoes were a major flop

It’s hard to beat $14.98 for an NBA player’s signature shoe. But Wallace‘s shoes were not exactly the prettiest pair out there.

The Big Bens, which came in three different colorways, were highlighted by a bulky strap that went over the top. The rest of the shoe looked like a slipper, with a flimsy exterior that justified the low price tag.

While the original Starbury shoes found some initial success, the Big Bens weren’t as fortunate. Margins were already tight for a shoe so cheap, plus Wallace wasn’t the type of superstar to excite potential buyers. With poor sales and in the midst of a terrible economy, Steve & Barry’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy just over a year after the shoes were announced. By 2009, all of their stores were closed and the company was defunct, forcing the Starbury line to discontinue.

Wallace’s play declined after he started wearing his own shoes

Ben Wallace of the Chicago Bulls sits on the bench with his head down.
Ben Wallace #3 of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the bench during a timeout. | Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Wallace was coming off of a solid first season in Chicago, averaging 6.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. In 2007-08, his second season with the Bulls and first wearing his signature shoe, Ben’s production took a tumble.

Wallace played 50 games for the Bulls with his new shoes, averaging 5.1 points on 37.3 percent shooting, the worst percentage since his rookie season 11 years prior. He also averaged 8.8 rebounds in those games, the first time he brought in fewer than 10 boards since 1999-00 with the Orlando Magic.

The Bulls traded Ben to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2007-08 season. In 1.5 years with the Cavs, he averaged 3.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He was back in Detroit for the final three years of his career just after Steve and Barry’s went out of business, but by then the 35-year-old Wallace wasn’t close to the same player he once was.

Maybe it was the shoes, maybe it was age, but Wallace’s career fell off once the Big Ben shoes hit the market. While the idea of a budget-friendly shoe was nice at the time, perhaps some more dependable footwear would’ve prolonged his shoe line, as well as his career.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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