“The Last Dance” docuseries on ESPN, which not only features the story of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls but also looks back on the entire career of Michael Jordan, has given new life to so many stories that people may not have thought about in years. One such story involves Jordan and the Bulls attempting to finally get past Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
That naturally led to the Bulls’ sweep of the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and Detroit’s infamous walk-off before Game 4 was over. Isiah Thomas offered up an apology on the matter earlier this week and says that things would likely go down a little differently if he had to do it over again. Bill Laimbeer is taking a different route.
Bill Laimbeer was the heart of the ‘Bad Boys’
Bill Laimbeer began his NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers but he’ll always be remembered for his time with the Detroit Pistons, with whom he spent 13 seasons. Traded to Detroit in 1982, Laimbeer was a four-time NBA All-Star in the 1980s and was one of the best big men on the perimeter. While mainly remembered for his physical play later in his career, Laimbeer was an underrated scorer, averaging a career-high 17.5 points in 1984-1985. He was also a great rebounder and led the league in that category in 1985-1986, pulling down 13.1 boards per game.
As his career rolled along, he became one of the league’s most physical players and constantly frustrated his opponents, which would sometimes turn into legitimate altercations. As the Pistons became known as the NBA’s “Bad Boys”, Laimbeer was right there in the middle of it and helped the team to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.
Bill Laimbeer led the walk-off against the Chicago Bulls in 1991
You certainly know the story by now. And if you didn’t, you likely learned it while watching “The Last Dance” this past weekend. In the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, the Detroit Pistons were on the verge of being swept by the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls took a 3-0 series lead and dominated Game 4 in Detroit. With 7.9 seconds remaining, Chicago was up 21 points and Michael Jordan & Co. were ready to celebrate their first trip to the NBA Finals. So Bill Laimbeer came up with the idea of simply leaving the court before the game was over. Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, and a number of other Detroit players walked right past the Chicago bench (the look on Jordan’s face was priceless) and hit the locker room. No handshakes. No hugs. They just bolted. While Isiah has said that he might do things differently today, Bill Laimbeer isn’t having any of that.
He has no regrets and thinks the Bulls are ‘whiners’
Bill Laimbeer has zero regrets about what he and the Detroit Pistons did in 1991. He’s constantly defended the style of play that earned them the “Bad Boys” moniker and that holds true to this day. In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols earlier this week, Laimbeer defended his decision to lead the walk-off 29 years ago.
“Why would I regret it now, today? I don’t care what the media says about me. I never did. If I did, I’d be a basket case, especially back then.
“I was about winning basketball games and winning championships and did whatever I had to do to get the most out of my ability and our team — and we did. At the end of the day, we’re called world champions.
“They whined and cried for a year and a half about how bad we were for the game, but more importantly, they said we were bad people. We weren’t bad people. We were just basketball players winning, and that really stuck with me because they didn’t know who we were or what we were about as individuals and our family life.
“But all that whining they did, I didn’t want to shake their hand. They were just whiners. They won the series. Give him credit: We got old, they got past us. But OK, move on.”Bill Laimbeer
That’s Bill Laimbeer’s story and he’s sticking to it. Right or wrong, you at least have to give him credit for not changing his story. The same can’t be said for Isiah Thomas.