My first season covering the Bulls was right after the summer they brought in multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace for a ridiculous sum of money. Pretty much everybody else on the team was young, vibrant, and open to pretty much anything in terms of chatting with the media, but not Big Ben. He didn’t scare me necessarily, but he did intimidate the crap out of me. There absolutely is a difference.
This past weekend when the Cleveland Cavaliers (Wallace’s new team) came through, I needed to get some audio from him for a piece I was doing. Now let me explain what I mean by intimidating—as I reached the point in approaching him that it was clear I needed an interview, he sort of stopped tying his shoes and looked up at me like I was about to ruin his day. The man has never warmed to me. Rarely do I get the sort of feeling that imposing on someone to interview them, but it’s that way with Big Ben.
He did agree to answer my questions, and the whole thing was less scary in real life than I think it was in my head, but it’s the anxiety in approaching the guy that’s always killed me. People who know him well love him, swear he’s the coolest, most down-to-earth guy in the world. And I can absolutely see that. He’s the sort of person you want to impress so that you, too, can become part of that circle of trust and partake in meaningful high fives and familial banter.
Alas, it was never meant to be with me and Mr. Ben Wallace. Part of it is just that he’s a quiet, self-kept guy. I understand that, but sometimes quiet, self-kept guys aren’t the most fun to talk to. And sometimes quiet, self-kept guys can be a little intimidating.
Okay, fine. Scary. The man is a little scary.