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Vintage Whine
Curry Kirkpatrick
November 05, 1990
Bad Bill Laimbeer is the NBA's consummate actor and psych artist; he's also a top-notch player
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November 05, 1990

Vintage Whine

Bad Bill Laimbeer is the NBA's consummate actor and psych artist; he's also a top-notch player

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It is road-trip time for the cutest couple in the Great Lakes and their pair of cute children. Time to suit up for the van ride from their house in Orchard Lake, Mich., to their house in Harbor Springs, Mich. That's right. There's a main home on a lake and a summer home high above another lake five hours away. The cutest couple in the Great Lakes may also be one of the richest. The night before in downtown Detroit, they had hosted, more or less, a Republican fund-raising dinner for 500 or so acquaintances, including the President of the United States, whose personally autographed photographs of himself on various occasions with them are framed and displayed throughout both houses. The cutest couple in the Great Lakes may also be one of the best connected. But now it's time to leave. Keriann, three years old, is tugging on the leg of a visitor, asking for some goodbye kisses. Eric William, 5, is getting dressed in the other room.

"Dad, can you come in here and help me with my pants?" Eric William says.

"You come out here," Dad says.

"No way," Eric William says. "I don't want to show my naked butt."

Now there's a twist. Because, as the facts so plainly reveal, in order for the cutest couple in the Great Lakes to have become so rich and famous and plugged in, that is precisely what Dad has made a career of showing, more or less, for an entire decade. That and getting his particular, fully uniformed butt kicked from here to kingdom come and points in-between.

Oh, you may be one of the "80 million Americans"—his estimate—outside the villages of Orchard Lake and Harbor Springs who have made Bill Laimbeer the most passionately hated professional athlete of this or any other era because you think he has, in helping lead the Detroit Pistons to two consecutive NBA championships, kicked other people's butts. Namely, those of your own favorite team. And he has, he has.

But just remember: Your good guys get it from Laimbeer approximately once a month until the playoffs. "The villain"—his term—gets knocked around something fierce several times a quarter every...single...game. And in endless triplicate, come playoff time. And he keeps coming back for more. In this fashion, Laimbeer is somewhat like the sadomasochistic, sociopathic scam artist played by Michael Keaton in the movie Pacific Heights. Lying nearly comatose after still another bloody beating from still another suckered victim, Keaton murmurs, "The hardest part's over."

Like Keaton's character, however, Laimbeer knows it never is. "This is my job," he says. Also, like the movie con man, Laimbeer seems to make remarkably quick recoveries from his multitude of essential thrashings.

"I have seen [Laimbeer] stick his jaw out and take a punch, fall down, get back up and point to the bench, meaning that the guy had just been thrown out of the game as a result of hitting him," says Dallas Maverick coach Richie Adubato.

Has Laimbeer ever won a fight? "I don't fight. I agitate, then walk away," he says, grinning. Still, after his many years as pro basketball's favorite whipped-upon boy, only a small red welt lingers under Laimbeer's left eye to mar his finely groomed, yupster-toothed countenance. Is this a scar from the time Bob Lanier blindsided him with a crushing blow that broke Laimbeer's nose? Or when Steve Stipanovich connected with a right cross? Or when Robert Parish unloaded his wicked, one-two, double-punch-as-the-dude-is-falling, playoff whamma-jamma? Or when Charles Barkley delivered a lunging, frightening left hook? Or when Scottie Pippen flattened him with a neck-high tackle, the ramifications of which became so stark to Pippen that he suddenly came down with a—pardon the expression—"migraine headache," which rendered him useless in the seventh game of the Pistons-Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference playoff last June?

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