"Anyone who has followed Bill Laimbeer’s basketball career realizes the passion that he has for the game"
- Joe Dumars
Bill Laimbeer grew up in affluent Clarendon Hills in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up he would play basketball in his driveway. However, he might have been paying basketball too much attention as he flunked out of Notre Dame in his freshman year. He attended two semesters at a technical college to get his grades back up. Bill would average about 7 points and 6 rebounds a game while playing for Digger Phelps's Fighting Irish.
Going into the 1979 draft, it was safe to say that no one was raging for Bill Laimbeer. Picked as the 65th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were not so interested in the big man. It wasn't until the middle of August that Bill would receive a contract. But by that time Bill already agreed to play for Pinti Inox of Brescia in the Italian League. He would play for a single year, averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds.
When Laimbeer returned to the states, he played a year for the Cavaliers in Cleveland. In February of 1982, Laimbeer, along with Kenny Carr, were traded the Detroit Pistons for Phil Hubbard, Paul Mokeski and two draft picks. Also joining the Pistons that year were Laimbeer's college teammate, Kelly Tripucka and a young point guard called Isaiah Thomas.
"We don't like him that good." - Larry Bird
Mr Bird says that for a reason. The Pistons of the late 80's were called the Bad Boys of Basketball, and the baddest of 'em all, was Bill Laimbeer. Bill seemed to eat angst for breakfast. He would constantly foul opponents, and was known for being physical. Perhaps the league's roughest player, Laimbeer once hit Bird with a cheap shot, only to get slugged by Robert Parrish. Laimbeer didn't know the meaning of the word fair.
The Pistons would struggle in mid 80's, trapped in the shadow of the Milwaukee Bucks as their two guards took their time to settle into Detroit and the NBA. In the 85-86 season, Laimbeer beat Moses Malone for the NBA rebounding title, averaging 13.1 rebounds a game. The team would follow that year with a journey all the way to the final series against the Lakers. The Bad Boys of Basketball would end up losing to the Lakers, but things would be very different in the following years. The Pistons would turn around in 88-89, and beat the Lakers, this time lead by shooting guard Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas and the combined defense of Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. The Pistons won again in the following season, this time beating the Portland Trailblazers in the Finals. In game two of that series, Laimbeer hit 6 three point shots, tying the NBA record for a playoff game.
Eleven games into the 1993-94 season and the dirtiest player in the game announced his retirement. Bill Laimbeer had played enough basketball. On February 6, 1995 his #40 joined the ranks of retired numbers that hang in the Pistons' home. Laimbeer was a four-time all star, and was the 19th player to amass 10,000 points and rebounds. On June 19, 2002, the president of Palace Sports and Entertainment announced that the former Pistons powerhouse agreed to a contract with the Detroit Shock. Bill would coach the Shock, replacing the previous coach, Greg Williams.
Bill was a big, tough guy, and that translated most easily into another medium, video games. Bill Laimbeer, near the beginning of the fade of his playing days released the most excellent SNES game, Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball. The theme behind this game was you owned and controlled a team of clones. The more you win, the more money you make, the better the clones you can afford. Yeap, the top clone is Michael Jordon, or Kareem Abdul-Jabber. The game does what Laimbeer did best, combine basketball and violence into something watchable.
career totals (14 seasons):
G FG% 3PFG% FT% Rebs RPG Asts APG Stls Blks Pts PPG
1068 .498 .326 .837 10400 9.7 2184 2.0 710 965 13790 12.9