By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

During Game 3 of the Boston-Detroit series in the 2002 NBA playoffs, my dad and I were watching our old nemesis, Bill Laimbeer (now a Pistons broadcaster), sitting at the scorer's table, about 20 feet in front of us, killing time during a taped halftime show. He's about 50 pounds heavier now than he was during his playing career -- equipped with a gigantic pot belly -- and his hair seems to be graying a little on top. Other than that, he's still the anti-Christ.

So Laimbeer started watching the TV monitor in front of him, probably bracing himself in case any Celtics fans walking behind him tried to sucker-punch him. We always hated Laimbeer in Boston. I mean, we hated him. And it wasn't just because he was the dirtiest player of his era, or because he was a natural Boston Garden villain.

During Game 4 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, Laimbeer had the gall to clothesline Larry Bird, causing a brawl and getting the Basketball Jesus thrown out of that game in the process (which the Pistons ended up winning). When Game 5 of the series shifted to the Boston Garden, you could actually feel the collective hatred in the crowd for him. It was tangible. We wanted blood. I'm still convinced that this was the reason Robert Parish snapped and sucker-punched Laimbeer in the first half ... we practically willed the Chief to do it. I'm dead-serious. We brainwashed him. I will believe that one until the day I die. You really had to be there. It was primal.

Anyway, Laimbeer's TV station was showing a montage of highlights from that same '87 playoffs. We could see Laimbeer trying not to watch it, inevitably getting sucked in for a trip down Memory Lane. When they reached the game where Laimbeer cheapshotted Bird, Laimbeer watched that part, then glanced up after it was over, an evil smirk on his face.

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  • You could almost picture this man running the Cobra Kai with Terry Silva and John Creese. When they showed the section where Parish belted him, he barely moved. When they showed Bird stealing the ball against Isiah and saving Game 5, he shook his head slightly, then glanced away, pretending he wasn't really watching.

    But he was watching. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh ... he was watching. The bastard.

    When they showed highlights from Game 7 -- Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley banging heads, Dantley getting carried off on a stretcher, Bird taking over at crunch time, a crucial section in which the Celts had five different offensive chances on the same possession before Danny Ainge finally nailed a 3 -- Laimbeer subjected himself to everything, finally looking away as they showed the Celtics celebrating. You could tell that the series still killed him, even 15 years later. Just a beautiful thing to watch. I couldn't have enjoyed it any more than I did. It's not possible.

    Here's why I'm telling you this: When we finished watching Laimbeer suffering through this highlight package, my father turned to me with an enormous grin on his face. Normally he's the least spiteful, least vindictive man on the planet. Not on this day.

    "That was great," Dad said. "God, I hate that guy."

    Good times ... very good times.

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and he's a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live.




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