When basketball fans talk about Bill Laimbeer they probably don’t say nice things about him, unless they are fans of the Detroit Pistons.
Laimbeer, Thomas, Dumars, Aguirre, Rodman, Johnson, Salley, Edwards, they were known as the “Bad Boys” and the baddest of them all was Bill Laimbeer.
Things might have been different if Cleveland had kept Laimbeer around. Years later he could have been the missing piece that Price, Daugherty and Nance needed to win.
Luckily for Detroit, after one and a half seasons with Cleveland, Bill Laimbeer was traded to the Pistons. The Cavs used to do a lot of bad trades in those years and Laimbeer and Kenny Carr for Phil Hubbard, Paul Mokeski and two picks didn’t work well for them. Hubbard scored some points, Mokeski didn’t stay long but Laimbeer would go on to have many great years with Detroit.
Laimbeer averaged close to a double-double for his career. His last three years brought down his overall average, so his career numbers are 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. With 10,400 total rebounds, he is a rare player who had over 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 points for his career.
Laimbeer and Detroit won titles in 1989 and 1990. That isn’t what he is known for, it is what he did on the court, that was often outside the rules but did help Detroit win games. Laimbeer didn’t mind fouling hard, very hard. He also had ways to annoy players, and if that meant a player got ejected for retaliating against Laimbeer it was often an advantage to the Pistons.
In 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987 Laimbeer played in the All-Star game. Not exactly the most popular player, combined for the four games he only played 45 minutes.
Something that is overlooked about his career is the range he had on his shot. He developed his three-point shot as his career progressed. For the two championship seasons, Laimbeer was around 35% from three-point range, for the regular season and playoffs.
This was a weapon that the Pistons used to get opposition centers out of the paint, making it easier for the guards to attack the rim.
If they stayed in the paint, then a pass to Laimbeer would result in his distinctive standing on his toes shot that often resulted in three points.
Laimbeer’s outside shooting helped the Pistons in other ways. James Edwards and Mark Aguirre wanted to score in the low post, and with Laimbeer dragging the opposition center out of the paint it gave them freedom to go one on one against their opponents. With Laimbeer keeping the center occupied, Dennis Rodman was able to go to work on the glass.
Laimbeer played his college basketball at Notre Dame. His career averages there were a low 7.4 points and 6.3 assists. Cleveland then drafted him with a third round pick in the 1979 draft.
Laimbeer didn’t go directly to the NBA, he went to Italy. He played for Brescia and produced some big numbers, over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.