Rasheed Wallace is gone, but always the greatest

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rasheed Wallace is finally done with the NBA, and that means we need take a minute to appreciate exactly who we're losing.

Rasheed Wallace announced his retirement on Wednesday, because nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky, and all we are is dust in the wind, and even the realest stars among us must fade away eventually. 'Sheed is headed to basketball heaven now, and if that doesn't necessarily include a trip to Springfield, Massachusetts, it will definitely involve a life of surprise cameos at the Raleigh Pro-Am and a lot of chilling in sweatsuits and talking shit.

I wish that last paragraph could be the entire article but I'm supposed to write more, so let's talk about this final season of his. Even if he missed half the year with the Knicks and was woefully out of shape for the other half, it was great having him back in the NBA, because it gave everyone one more excuse to tell 'Sheed stories and appreciate a cult hero who was a cult hero before being a cult hero was considered cool.

If we couldn't retroactively mic him up for the first 15 years of his career, we needed at least a year of 'Sheed in the YouTube/Twitter era.

Everyone needed a chance to appreciate the guy who gets ejected after 90 seconds for screaming "BALL DON'T LIE" , responds by screaming "BALL DON'T LIE" again, and then walks off the court cursing out the refs. Especially if said incident ends with the New York Times leading a serious, reverential inquiry into the Tao of "BALL DON'T LIE":

Like other aphoristic phrases in the N.B.A.’s expansive, if not altogether very imaginative lexicon ("lock him up," for example), "Ball don’t lie" traces its roots to playground courts. It is usually said when what is perceived to be a bad call does not result in a score, but instead a turnover or a missed shot.

There’s a simple poetry to it, the street-righteous version of "Cheaters never prosper." It implies that the ball — possessed of its own moral compass — tips the scales of on-court justice, and not the referees or the other players.

It’s karma at work.

He also screamed his "aphoristic phrase" at Austin Rivers this year, before adding, "I can yell, I can yell all I want! I didn't direct that toward nobody."

After a game in Memphis earlier this year where Rasheed was overheard talking shit to players, coaches, and fans, Zach Randolph was asked about Rasheed later in the week. "He's a great guy, a great teammate, just a great person. He gots to talk. 'You too little! He too little!' Talk to the other team, talk to the coaches. That's just Rasheed."

Likewise, this is just Rasheed in the pregame huddle.

And this is just Rasheed sharing wisdom with the next generation:

Screen_shot_2012-11-05_at_3

He ended his career as a sideshow for this year's Knicks, which is to say he fit perfectly with this year's Knicks, and part of me hoped he would stick around as the out-of-shape oft-injured 12th man until the end of time. Because the NBA's just a little bit more fun when you know Rasheed is around to talk shit to anyone within a 100-foot radius. But it's over. No more best bald spot in the NBA, no more horrible teeth, no more felonious refs.

It was fun and necessary to have him come back for a curtain call, but as Rasheed once said, "It's K.I.M. You gotta keep it moving. Once you stop, you gonna get stuck."

He also said: "I’m an everyday person just like yourself. I go to the supermarket, make sure the kids are at school, make breakfast, this and that. I’m just a regular dad. On the court, I just try to go out there and play, be a monster, be a beast, be a goon. And that’s me."

As with any discussion of Rasheed, half of this is sarcastic, and half is dead serious. Because while he was probably the funniest, most ridiculous superstar to pop into the NBA over the past two decades and we will always celebrate his ridiculousness, Rasheed was also a regular guy who maybe understood the pro sports dog and pony show better than anyone. Some might look at his career as a disappointment because he had enough talent to be one of the greatest ever, but if he never quite lived up to all that, he still made a living for almost 20 years that will probably take care of his family for life, and used basketball more than it ever used him.

So if Rasheed's actually retired for real this time, good for him. Some guys can't move on after sports, but Rasheed will be fine. He never needed any of this.

I'll remember him as a monster, a beast, and a goon, and a regular guy who taught me that we all need a urinal in our master bathroom. He won an NBA title, played in four All-Star Games, never lost to Duke, and gave us the greatest Christmas song of all time.

God bless Rasheed, and GOD BLESS THE REMIX.

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