Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons: The Most Ruthless Player in NBA History

Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Bill Laimbeer. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images /

It is my belief that sports are just as much about hate as they are love. Detroit Pistons’ fans love Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.

They hate Robert Horry, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. Both emotions are strong and deeply grounded. Almost everyone hates Bill Laimbeer, aside from Detroiters. People who grew up watching the Bad Boys will defend him until the day they die, but are other people right to hate him? Yes, they are, because Bill Laimbeer was ruthless.

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Being a ruthless player is not a statistic the NBA currently recognizes, although the math behind that would be interesting. Committing a lot of fouls is a good way to measure, and Laimbeer certainly did a lot of that.

Detroit Pistons: Bill Laimbeer was an efficient and ruthless foul machine

For single-season numbers, focusing on the 1985-86 season makes the most sense because it was Laimbeer’s best season. The Pistons finished third in the Central Division and had an early playoff exit, but Laimbeer put up 16.6 points per game, higher than his career average, and led the league in rebounds. He also committed three and a half fouls per game.

To put that in perspective, Draymond Green emerged as a superstar and had a reputation as a dirty player starting in 2016, but he only averaged 2.9 fouls per game that season, and he was the Warriors main enforcer, while the Pistons had a roster full of players with a certain reputation.

Zaza Pachulia, a notable dirty player and an overall lunatic on the court, only averaged 1.8 fouls in 2017, the year he single-handedly destroyed the Spurs’ dynasty. Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest never averaged 3.5 more than seven times, which is how many times Bill Laimbeer hit that number.

It’s not even that Laimbeer committed fouls, it’s that he was incredibly efficient. He ranks number 25 on the all-time foul list, and aside from Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp is the only one in the top 30 to play in fewer than 15 NBA or ABA seasons.

Admittedly, it helps that Laimbeer played for teams that committed a lot of fouls. The Bad Boys earned that moniker. The 1985-86 Pistons committed the 10th most fouls in the league but averaged a whopping .2 technical fouls more than the league average. On a team that was heavy in fouls, Laimbeer led the way, committing the most fouls on the team by a substantial margin.

Moving on from the stats, Laimbeer also never knew when to tone it down. In 1987, Laimbeer got “tied up” under the basket with Larry Bird. What really happened was a fascinating bodyslam by Laimbeer, resulting in a scuffle. The fight was funny for two reasons. First, Larry Bird is someone I would avoid fighting at all costs, even if I was almost seven feet tall. Larry Bird is 64 now, and I still wouldn’t want to fight him. I’d lose.

Also, Laimbeer acted offended that it happened and that it wasn’t his fault, even though it clearly was. To be fair, this is what I would do if I found myself fighting with Larry Bird. I feel like saying sorry wouldn’t do anything. Although I’d try to do a better job acting shocked than Laimbeer did.

Off the court, Laimbeer has no arrest record, has hosted charity golf events, and is a conservative but tries to stay out of politics because they are “too ugly of a sport.” Ironic. Off the court, there is really nothing negative to say about him. On the court, he was totally ruthless and very efficient at his job.

It makes sense that Pistons fans love him, although if he played for any other team they wouldn’t. 29 fanbases don’t love him at all, and only remember him as the Bad Boy of Detroit Basketball.

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