(Sheed’s nickname for Kwame Brown? “Coffee with no cream.” Your guess is as good as mine.)
The more I hear about Rasheed Wallace, the more I realize that he is a misunderstood individual. This isn’t a sudden realization, mind you. For years, teammates and coaches have told us not to trust the media’s image of Sheed, not to trust the Sheed we see with our own two. So I’ve always been open-minded about Sheed. I’ve always known there was a side we fans don’t get to see. But the existence of that additional dimension Sheed owns, the one we only see brief glimpses of, has never been more clear than it was this season. The Celtics quickly grew to love him, even as Sheed drew the ire of New England fans everywhere. You can call Rasheed Wallace a whole lot of things, but never say he isn’t a good teammate.
You see, I would never want to play basketball with the Rasheed Wallace Boston experienced last season. Not Regular Season Sheed, at least. That’s not even me being an asshole, either. Think about playing basketball — what are the qualities you loathe in teammates? Laziness? Sheed gets a check in that department, for sure. Takes bad shots? Yup. Doesn’t seem to pass the three-point arc on either end of the floor? No doubt. Liable to get a technical foul at any point in the game? Obviously. Regular Season Sheed makes a nice pass or flashes a small bit of his post repertoire every once in a while just to make you realize he still has a pulse, but other than that he is one of the most frustrating players in the world to watch and, I assume, play with. Yet all his teammates and coaches seem to love him.
They want to go to war with him. They seek him out for advice. They call him friend. They get his back when he spouts off and earns a technical, even when it comes at the very worst time. They stand by Sheed’s talents and trust him to be there when the points count a little more and — in Sheed’s words — a lot of players’ butt-holes start to get tight. And those same players, the ones who came to call Rasheed friend? They cried when he told them about his retirement.
Us fans, all we see is the Sheed on TV and in the newspaper. The loud, sometimes-obnoxious and usually-lazy player who inspires venom in referees and fans alike. The Sheed who practices in sweatpants with the pockets hanging out, who pays about as much attention to his hair as Antoine Walker does to his money. The Sheed who blows up at referees, occasionally barks at his coach and resembles a loose cannon every step of the way. But we don’t see what happens behind the scenes. Which is why we’re always somewhat surprised to hear about how much Sheed’s teammates love him, no matter how many times we’ve already heard it.
Just listen to Nate Robinson sing Sheed’s praises. You’d think Sheed was Gandhi or Mother Teresa, not some seemingly crazy bastard who has never met a comb he liked and piles up technical fouls like Russ gathered rings.
“Sheed is one of my all-time favorites, regardless of the techs,” Robinson told Slam Magazine. “He speaks his mind and that is what I love about him. I have so much respect for him because if something isn’t right, he will let you know. He’s like that all the time. That was the one person who I would look to for advice and he always gave me his honest opinion whether I liked it or not. As a player he worked everyday. He came in and shot early, leave late.
“The main thing about him is he wanted to win. He has a ring but wanted to go out with a bang. We tried to go out with a championship but unfortunately we didn’t. The speech that he gave, saying stuff like he wouldn’t have had it any other way besides going to war with the guys that were in that locker room with us. It touched everybody. We were heartbroken that we didn’t win it for him. Of course I wanted to win my first championship but I wanted to win because I have looked up to Sheed since college. I played against his AAU team in Philly. My mom used to do his wife’s hair—my mom is a hair stylist. So I’ve known Sheed for a while, since I was real young.
“Playing alongside him was awesome. It was a dream come true. I just wish the tables were turned and we would have won that championship because I honestly believe if we would have won, Sheed would have played another year. One more year with Sheed.”
One more year with Sheed. That’s a big reason why Nate wanted to win a championship, despite all the signs I’ve pointed to that show Sheed isn’t the ideal guy to play with. And Nate isn’t alone. Kevin Garnett teared up when talking about Sheed’s retirement, acknowledging that he sees a lot of himself in Sheed. Tony Gaffney wrote on Facebook that, in just a few quick months, Sheed had become one of his favorite people ever. Whether we understand it or not, Sheed is loved. There is undoubtedly another layer to him, one we can’t see. A layer that endears people to him. A layer that makes him a good friend, someone from whom to seek advice, and one hell of a teammate.
One more year with Sheed. Before last offseason, that would have seemed like a nightmare.
One more year with Sheed. Probably not, but I’m no longer against it.