Bill Laimbeer

Bill Laimbeer was one of the most notorious players ever to throw an elbow, thrust a hip, or feign being fouled. Certainly, no player was ever showered with more boos or unflattering nicknames. Bill Laimbeer was called “the prince of darkness,” “a street thug,” “an ax murderer” and “His Heinous.”

Bill Laimbeer preferred a physical game, particularly beneath the boards. In 14 bruising NBA seasons Bill Laimbeer made up for his minuscule vertical leap, slow feet, and sluggishness by becoming a master of posturing, muscling, and anticipating — plus fomenting trouble, pretending to be fouled, and drawing his opponents’ ire.

Bill Laimbeer always seemed to be nursing a brawl-induced shiner or broken nose. He was punched by some of the league’s best players, including Robert Parish, including Bob Lanier, including Larry Bird and including Charles Barkley. “We don’t like him that good,” Bird once told Sports Illustrated.

The Laimbeer “flop” became the stuff of legend. A grimacing Laimbeer would often go careening to the floor in reaction to the slightest tap from an opponent. More often than not, the whistle went his way. With aggravating if not refreshing candor, Bill Laimbeer never disavowed his on-court histrionics.

Nevertheless, Bill Laimbeer was one of the league’s finest centers throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s. In 12 seasons with Detroit, Bill Laimbeer became the Pistons’ all-time leader in rebounds and second in games played. Playing the role of head villain, he led the “Bad Boys” of Detroit to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990.

A four-time All-Star, Bill Laimbeer became the 19th player in league history to amass more than 10,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. He had a special talent for defensive rebounding, and he could pump in outside shots and hit free throws. Despite his frequent injuries, Bill Laimbeer was an iron man; his consecutive-game streak of 685 remains among the longest in NBA history.