A clock tower "DONG" reverberated at The Palace as a white banner adorned with "Wallace" in blue and "3" in red was raised to the rafters Saturday night at halftime of Detroit's game against the Golden State Warriors.
Wallace, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, was joined by his coach, Larry Brown, and many of his teammates from the 2004 NBA title team on the court for a ceremony at halftime.
Instead of sporting his familiar Afro, his salt-and-pepper hairdo was closely cropped.
"The 'fro still grows," Wallace said before the game. "Big and fluffy and very, very white."
Wallace, 41, is the eighth player to have his jersey retired by the franchise, and the first from his championship team. Former teammate Chauncey Billups' jersey will be retired later this season.
Wallace appeared to wipe a tear away from his left eye just before it was his turn to address his adoring fans.
"Where I came from and some of the trial and tribulations I went through, I wouldn't change it for the world," said Wallace, who was accompanied by his wife, their son and daughter. "Y'all motivated me on nights when I didn't have anything left."
Wallace's path to defensive greatness started in White Hall, Alabama, where, he has recalled, his seven older brothers forced him to learn how to play basketball without shooting much.
"I was always told, 'You have to get loose balls and rebound or try to get a steal because we're not going to pass the ball,'" he once said.
That advice served him well later in life against the best basketball players in the world.
A former Virginia Union standout, Wallace was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Washington Bullets in 1996. He went on to play for the Orlando Magic, who dealt him to Detroit as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Pistons in the summer of 2000 that was orchestrated by former Pistons general manager Joe Dumars.
"I wish Joe was here because Joe recognized the greatness of Ben," said Brown, who now coaches No. 10 SMU. "I go all over the country, and I want to find someone just like you. You broke the mold. There will never be another one quite like you."
Wallace never averaged double digits in scoring, but is likely to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He became the first to win the Defensive Player of the Year award four times in a five-year span from 2002 to 2006, and only Dikembe Mutombo also won it four times in a career. Wallace led the league in rebounds and blocks per game during the 2001-02 season. And that was quite a feat because, even though he was listed as a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center, he said he is really 6-7.
Wallace helped the Pistons win a title and come within a win of repeating during a four-year stretch in which they at least advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. He signed with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent and bounced around the league a bit before coming back to Detroit in 2009 season before retiring in 2012.
Golden State standout Draymond Green said that while growing up in Michigan he looked up to Wallace and tried to play the way he did.
Said Wallace, "That means a lot because my game wasn't pretty."