The Pistons have given away 97,996 total Ben Wallace bobbleheads in 11 different formsThe Evolution of Big Ben (Bobbleheads)Dave Howell
As I sat at my desk looking at the Ben Wallace Eastern Conference Champion figurine to be given out at Opening Night, I began to wonder how Ben got to his current lofty status as the Pistons player most recreated in bobblehead form.
To answer this question, I went straight to the Pistons? Director of Marketing and Promotions Debbie Guina. Debbie is the lady responsible for the creation of all of the cool giveaways the Pistons do each season, from bobbleheads to jerseys. So I figured, if anyone could give me a rundown on the evolution of the Ben bobbleheads, she would be the one.
The reason is simple. Ben is widely recognized as the most popular player on the team. He is the face of the team and the embodiment of the Pistons? ?Goin? to Work? mantra. Since the beginning of the 2004-05 season, sales of Ben?s jerseys have ranked in the top 15 of the NBA?s flagship store in New York City and on the league?s website. A fan can see a myriad of Ben merchandise during a walk through the crowd at The Palace during a Pistons game. Everything from t-shirts to jerseys, from wigs to signs, Ben is the ?everyman? of the Detroit area, a hard worker who values team success more than his own.
Since the beginning of the 2000-01 season, the Pistons have given away 97,996 total Ben Wallace bobbleheads in 11 different bobbleheads, mini-bobbleheads, and figurines. They have been tall (the 2005 Eastern Conference Championship Trophy Ben is 10.5?) and short (the Holiday Ornament Ben is 3?). One is life-sized and stands in the West Atrium at The Palace. Ben has been recreated in action poses and standing still. Some have even made noise (the talking Ben has the clock gong that is played when Ben rebounds the ball).
As bobblehead manufacturing technology has evolved, so to has the appearance and intricacies of the bobblehead. When the Pistons started creating bobbleheads, they were short and not very representative of the actual player. As time progressed, the Pistons were able to create Ben in more action poses. This change allowed the bobbleheads to become more lean and lifelike.
Ben now even comes with tattoos. Several years ago, former Pistons forward Corliss Williamson felt that it was important for any representation of him to have his tattoos. Since then, all of a player?s tattoos have been included on their respective bobbleheads.
Another reflection of the evolution was the creation of the talking bobblehead. Talking bobbleheads give the fan a larger piece of the personality of the player. Not only is Ben sitting on your table, but when you push the basketball on the base, the bobblehead plays the Big Ben clock. There was even a Ben bobblehead that talked. It played a recorded message from Ben himself.
Maybe more importantly, Ben has had the hair - afro or cornrows. There have even been several types of afros. Originally, Ben?s molded ?fro was designed to be as big as possible. Unfortunately, the hair was way too heavy and Ben bobbled way too much under the weight. In an effort to alleviate any ?neck problems?, Ben was given ?real? hair. Debbie was nice enough to show me some of the first samples of the ?real? hair afro. Imagine Ben with a Greg Brady perm or Ben as one of the Gotti boys from the TV show ?Growing Up Gotti.? Though very amusing, neither could quite duplicate Detroit?s most popular afro. The final product was created with hair that is similar to the Troll dolls, fluffy and much more representative of the real thing.
The Eastern Conference Championship Ben, which was given out on Opening Night 2005-06, is the only Ben figurine given out this season. It features Ben holding the Eastern Conference Championship trophy above his head. The Ben figurine is the most life-like, skinniest version to date. Only 10,000 were made and each is individually numbered. Even this number is the result of evolution. For years, the Pistons gave out only 5,000 of each bobblehead. But over time, they became the most popular of all of the giveaways. In an effort to include more fans, the Pistons, with the support of their sponsors, increased the giveaway to 10,000.
What is the next stop on the Ben bobblehead progression? Only time will tell, but I?m sure that as the technology progresses, other new and exciting Ben Wallace statues will be created. How about one that plays on your high school team?