Skip to main content

Mention Bill Laimbeer to Boston Celtics fans, and you’ll see the steam come out of their ears. The former Detroit Pistons center wasn’t exactly well-received in Boston. In fact, Laimbeer has to go down as the most hated player in Boston.

Laimbeer didn’t make any friends in Boston because he was an antagonist. He wasn’t the most talented player, so he resorted to little antics that bordered on dirty play. Those antics didn’t just annoy the Celtics, and that was evident on Nov. 1, 1983, when Bob Lanier, a gentle giant, got so fed up with Laimbeer that he clocked him with a powerful left hook.

Bill Laimbeer and the Boston Celtics were never a good mix

Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons shoots over Kevin McHale and Brian Shaw of the Boston Celtics during an NBA game circa 1989 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

If you need proof there was bad blood between Bill Laimbeer and the Boston Celtics, just go back and check out the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. In Game 3 of the series, Laimbeer took down Celtics star Larry Bird with an unnecessary hard foul. The play earned him an ejection. Bird was eventually tossed, too, as he fired the basketball back at Laimbeer.

In Game 5, things turned real ugly. Laimbeer, again, tried to pull some antics, this time against veteran Celtics center Robert Parish. At one point, Parish had enough. As the two were inside the paint and Laimbeer had his back to the Celtics center, Parish pummeled Laimbeer with a couple of blows to the face, sending him to the floor. Although he was not ejected (a foul wasn’t even called), he was suspended for Game 6.

Parish is typically a mild-mannered player, but he admitted he was even surprised at what he did to Laimbeer.

“In the heat of the battle, it was the first time I had lost control of my emotions and my temper,” Parish told former Celtics teammate Cedric Maxwell via CLNS. “We had exchanged a few unpleasantries toward one another and a few elbows. I couldn’t believe I lost my composure like that. That’s the first time ever.”

In an old interview with Bill Simmons, Bird explained why he doesn’t like Laimbeer.

“It’s because he was a dirty player,” Bird said. “He had to do what he had to do and I understand that, but you take like (former Piston) Ricky Mahorn, he’d hit you and you knew you were going to get hit. He didn’t try to maim you. Bill tried to hurt you.

“He was one of them guys when you tried to shoot a jumper, he would try to slide his foot underneath your ankle so you’d twist your ankle.”

The Celtics weren’t the only ones annoyed with Laimbeer


Larry Bird Had Classic Response When Asked What He Would’ve Said to the Hated Bill Laimbeer Had He Shown up for Larry Bird Night

Parish wasn’t the only mild-mannered center Laimbeer antagonized. He found a way to get under the skin of Lanier in one game during the early part of the 1983-84 season. That was tough to do. Lanier was a force in the middle, but he was often laid back.

Former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas saw firsthand how gentle Lanier could be when he faced the future Hall of Fame center.

“I was having some success in the game early on,” Thomas once told the Detroit Free Press. “I remember coming down the lane, and (Lanier) literally grabbed me out of the air and gently set me down and said, ‘Don’t come down here anymore.’

“For the rest of the game, I became a great jump shooter. He was one of the true enforcers in the game. And he patrolled the paint. I remember that moment vividly in my head.”

Against Laimbeer on Nov. 1, 1983, Lanier didn’t hold back. Lanier, who was the No. 1 pick of the Pistons in 1970, was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks in the final season of his career. Laimbeer seemingly was up to his old tricks, antagonizing the opposition when Lanier finally had enough.

Underneath the basket, Lanier wound up and slugged Laimbeer with a tremendous left hook, knocking him to the floor. The blow left Detroit’s center with a broken nose. Unlike the Parish punch, when nobody came to the aid of Laimbeer, Lanier quickly went to help Laimbeer. Guilt immediately took over.

According to The New York Times, Lanier was fined $5,000 and told investigators he had “no justification for throwing the punch.”

That’s what Laimbeer will do to you.