A few months back, I wrote a piece for this series that covered one of the many on-court “fights” of the NBA’s glory years. But this highlight was more for the comical value.
I did get a suggestion from one of our great mods, and here it is. Real fisticuffs from one of the most fabled enforcers of professional hoops.
Detroit Pistons big man Bill Laimbeer wasn’t widely known for his basketball skills. For the youngsters who don’t know what I’m talking about, his claim to fame was the brand of sheer physicality he brought on the court.
Laimbeer riled up a lot of feathers. So much so that this all-time great had such a deep hatred for him that lasted more than three decades.
Many of these dust-ups are chronicled in the NBA’s expansive video library, but here are the top three moments that stood out to me.
Bill Laimbeer vs. Brad Daugherty
This is probably the second cleanest right hand thrown in the NBA next to Kermit Washington’s infamous cross on Rudy Tomjanovich in ‘77. It happened during a regular-season game between the Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers in January 1989.
After rolling with a punch from Daugherty, Laimbeer nicely countered with an extended right hook. That’s a highlight reel for the ages.
Despite having that punch for dinner that night, Daugherty gave his props to Laimbeer’s hustle.
‘’I guess his role is to go out and try to really agitate people,’’ he said in an interview a month later. ‘’If he’s trying to get on people’s nerves, he’s doing a good job.’’
Bill Laimbeer vs. Larry Bird
Nothing particularly pugilistic about this sequence, but it was downright dirty. Career-threatening if worse came to worst.
That all-time great I mentioned earlier was none other than Larry Bird. And this moment during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals was one of the likely reasons why the bad blood runs deep.
Bill Laimbeer vs. Charles Barkley
This one’s my all-time favorite Detroit Bad Boys clip. It happened during the 1990 Playoffs between the Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The tussle actually started between Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. But in comes Charles Barkley to defend his teammate, causing a full-on brawl to break out.
Just look at that uppercut off the clinch. Perfect execution.
For better or for worse, games today are no longer as rough and physical as they were decades ago. But in case nostalgia hits, there will always be the timeless clips of Bill Laimbeer and the rest of the Detroit Bad Boys.