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On April 29, 1987, the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons entered the playoffs with a clear
The Boston Celtics are one of NBA’s elite franchises, having won 16 championships, the most of any franchise. One of their greatest players, Larry Bird, is often remembered for his grace under pressure, his incredible shooting touch, and his signature “baby-faced assassin” look.
Before facing their longtime rival Los Angeles Lakers in the 1987 NBA Finals, Larry Bird is a well-known figure in the and the Boston Celtics had to beat another foe, the Detroit Pistons. The Eastern Conference’s power structure looked to be changing. The Celtics, who had reached the NBA Finals in each of the previous three seasons, were overworking their elderly veterans by forcing them to play more minutes than they should.
The Pistons were a physically stronger and younger team. During their tense 1987 Eastern Conference Finals match, things turned nasty. Bill Laimbeer, the guy who most opposition players despised, was there in the midst of it all. In Game 3 of the series, Bird and Laimbeer were both expelled, and it didn’t end there.
In Game 3 of the ECF, Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer were ejected for fighting.
During the first half of Game 7 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird, left, and Detroit Lions’ Bill Laimbeer, right, reach for the ball. | Getty Images/By Barry Chin/The Boston Globe
According to The Chicago Tribune, Michael Jordan labeled Laimbeer the “dirtiest player in the league.” Throughout his tenure in Detroit as a member of the ‘Bad Boys,’ the Pistons center carried that reputation with him. When the Pistons came to town during the playoffs, things usually heated up. When the Celtics and Pistons played in 1987, the victor of the series earned a place in the NBA Finals.
Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn joined Laimbeer to create a muscular frontcourt that often pushed the limits of dirty play. Things took a nasty turn in Game 3 of the series, thanks to Laimbeer.
Despite down 2-0 in the series, the Pistons were up 97-81 in the third game when Laimbeer slammed Bird, who had up-faked and was going up for a shot beneath the rim. As the players climbed on top of one other, punches were thrown. Bird threw the ball towards Laimbeer as things started to calm down. For his foul play, Laimbeer was dismissed. Bird was thrown out because he threw the ball. After that, Detroit won 122-104.
The rivalry between Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer spilled over into the locker room.
Because there’s never a bad moment to see Larry Bird smack Bill Laimbeer in the head with a basketball, here he is.
March 11, 2021 — Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports)
The bird was enraged. That’s exactly what Laimbeer did to his opponents. Bird, who isn’t renowned for his fighting skills, said after the game that he wanted to go after the Pistons’ big man.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Bird remarked, “I wish they would have split the sea, cleared the court for about 15 minutes, and just let us go at each other.” “We would have seen who the true guy is,” says the narrator. He was backing away from me, as if he didn’t want anything to do with me.
“This is the first time I’ve been in a situation where I can claim I wasn’t at fault.” Take a peek at the movie. That thing doesn’t bother me. It reaches a point when you must defend yourself. What I did out there wasn’t good for the game, but I had to keep my job.”
As reporters transmitted comments to each locker room, Laimbeer made a weak effort at an explanation for the infraction, sparking another angry reaction from Bird.
According to Sports Illustrated, after the game, Laimbeer stated, “Bird stepped up for the shot, and it seemed like Rodman was going to undercut him.” “I grasped Larry’s hand to stop myself from falling.”
Bird replied, “Yeah, yeah, he was attempting to stop his fall.” “I was simply trying to get the ball to the official when I tossed it.”
Bird finally snapped once again.
He said, “He thinks he’s tough.” “All right, then, let him come at me.” He waits for assistance from his teammates and protection from the authorities. Allow everyone to get out of the way and allow him in.”
Bird said that he disliked Laimbeer even after his playing days were gone.
The series remained tense despite Laimbeer and the Pistons winning Game 3. In Game 4, the Pistons thrashed the Celtics 145-119 to even the series. Bird turned the series around in Game 5 in Boston, when he famously stole an Isiah Thomas inbounds pass in the final seconds, which led to a Dennis Johnson basket and a 108-107 Celtics victory. Despite losing Game 6 on the road, the Celtics won Game 7 at home to seal the series.
In the next three seasons, the Pistons defeated the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Bird never made it back to the Finals after the ‘Bad Boys’ took over the Eastern Conference.
Bird stated that he couldn’t tolerate Laimbeer even after his playing days were gone. Bill Simmons questioned Bird whether he loved Laimbeer outside of basketball in a video released by The Universe Galaxy in 2018. Bird immediately responded that he didn’t.
Bird said, “It’s because he was a nasty player.” “I realize that he had to do what he had to do, but when (former Piston) Ricky Mahorn struck you, you knew you were going to be hit. He didn’t attempt to harm you in any way. Bill made an attempt to harm you.”
When Larry Bird was approached for autographs, he used to sign another superstar’s name.
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