He has been gone from the NBA for four years, but Bill Laimbeer
still enjoys boxing out the competition. "In business I'm trying
to be the same as I was as a player," says the 40-year-old
president of Laimbeer Packaging, a company in Melvindale, Mich.,
that makes corrugated containers. "I enjoy the mental challenge
of trying to figure things out and get an advantage. My style
before is my style now."
Not that SI's two-time cover subject (June 27, 1988, as well as
Nov. 5, 1990) is giving purchasers forearm shivers or slamming
rival manufacturers to the hardwood. As the baddest of the
Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys in the late '80s, Laimbeer was as
famous for being a crybaby jerk as he was for his contributions
to the Pistons' back-to-back championships. The list of players
Laimbeer, a 6'11", 260-pound center, provoked is an NBA Who's
Who of that era: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Sidney Moncrief,
Robert Parish, Scottie Pippen, Dominique Wilkins, teammate Isiah
Laimbeer retired as Detroit's alltime leading rebounder, and
instigator, early in the 1993-94 season and joined his father,
also named Bill, in the box business. "People miss how
I...we...played the game," says Laimbeer, who lives in suburban
Orchard Lake with wife Chris, son Eric, 12, and daughter
Kerriann, 10. "We were entertainers. Look at basketball
today--low scoring, lots of physical defense--and that was all
the Pistons' doing. When we were winning, people moaned how we
were ruining basketball. Actually, we sort of defined its future."
Although this may not necessarily be a good thing, it does
suggest that Laimbeer was more than a goon. He was one of the
league's best weakside defenders, as well as a rugged rebounder,
a solid scorer and an all-star actor (no one did a better flop).
Villain or no villain, he could play, and there's a number 40
hanging from the rafters of The Palace of Auburn Hills to prove
it. "Actually," he says, "I think people who saw me regularly
recognize that I wasn't such a bad guy."
Sure, Bill. Though Laimbeer considers the 1989 and 1990 titles
the highlights of his 13 years with the Pistons, he rarely
breaks out his championship rings. "Just winning was enough for
me," he says. "If you've got it, why show it off? People will
remember the fun times."
Fun? Laimbeer? Somewhere, Robert Parish is laughing.