The current generation of NBA fans views Danny Ainge as the mastermind who led the Boston Celtics to an NBA championship in 2008 and another NBA Finals appearance in 2010. He’s also made the team one of the most competitive franchises of the last decade, acquiring young superstar talent to pair with a promising young head coach in Brad Stevens.
But to an older generation of fans, Ainge was one of the toughest players of his era. Ainge was known for not being afraid to mix it up when the situation called for it. One of the most famous instances of Ainge getting into it with another player involved him being bitten. Here’s the story of how that happened.
Danny Ainge’s NBA career overview
According to Basketball Reference, Ainge played from 1981-1995. He won two championships with the Boston Celtics and also led both the Portland Trailblazers and Phoenix Suns to NBA Finals’ appearances.
Ainge made only one All-Star team, but he was something of a consummate role player. He averaged 11.5 points per game for his career and always seemed to make plays when it counted most. His contributions to some truly great Boston teams made him both a fan favorite and a player opponents couldn’t take lightly.
Since retiring, Ainge has become something of a basketball renaissance man. He became a head coach and also put in time in the broadcast booth before ending up in an executive role. That’s where he’s seen great success. Ainge turned the Celtics from one of the worst teams in the league into perennial title contenders.
Growing a reputation as a “tough guy”
During his playing days, Ainge had a reputation for being a tough player quick to scrap and fight. A 1991 Chicago Tribune article detailed the perception of Ainge around the league.
During a playoff series against his Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Don Nelson claimed Ainge took a cheap shot at his best player, Sidney Moncrief. Ainge saw Nelson’s antics as an attempt to sully his reputation.
”It was a ploy to turn the crowd against me…And it worked. I really never had been called a dirty player, but I was booed every time I touched the ball and got three quick fouls.”
Ainge may not have truly been a dirty player, but he did get in his fair share of fights.
The fight Danny Ainge had with Tree Rollins
Ainge clearly wasn’t one to back down from a potential skirmish, no matter who it was up against. One time, it came against big man Tree Rollins. According to the Boston Herald, the incident question came during a 1983 game against the Atlanta Hawks.
The C’s and Hawks were in the second half of a first-round playoff series. The Celtics were well on their way to eliminating the Hawks in what was then a best-of-three series.
Rollins and Ainge had been going at each other the entire game. Rollins threw an elbow at Ainge, who responded with his own brand of physicality: he tackled Rollins. As the two teams tussled, Rollins reportedly tried to take a bite out of Ainge.
According to Ainge, the most impressive part of the entire ordeal was his takedown:
“The best part of it was my tackle…It was good. I’m seriously surprised that, after watching me tackle Tree, (Patriots head coach Bill) Belichick hasn’t called me to come in and teach his defensive backs how to make tackles.”
Ainge has had quite an accomplishment-filled career. But basketball fans will always remember this incident as being exemplary of his fiery nature – even if he wasn’t the one doing the biting.