As the Lakers barely squeezed out a victory over the Celtics on Sunday, the highly anticipated series between the old rivals, LA versus Boston, has failed to live up to its hype, as Boston has clearly been the superior team.
It was naïve to expect this series to live up the storied battles of the past; especially because the emotional feud doesn’t exist today as it did in the previous Celtics-Lakers battles.
For a neutral fan, this series is sorely missing one main ingredient: a villain.
The villain is the guy who transforms a series from an exciting contest to an emotional war. Instead of just a basketball game, it becomes a battle of attrition, masculinity and pure emotion.
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry 80’s was so great, because after McHale clotheslined Rambis in ‘84, all the formalities were thrown out the window and the rest is history.
Imagine if the Lakers still had big shot or cheap shot Bob as some call him, one of the few remaining villains of our time. How much would the series have turned after Bob inadvertently hip checked Rajon Rondo right into Paul Pierce’s bad knee when the Celtics were making their epic comeback in Game Four?
KG plays like a crazed maniac using passion from within; imagine if you actually gave him a reason to be angry. Pau Gasol would be trying to cry his way back to Memphis instead of simply crying to the refs.
So in honor of a dying and forgotten breed in the NBA, one-by-one, I will unveil a starting five of the greatest NBA Villains.
There are two conditions that must be met to earn a spot on the All-Villain team.
1) The player cannot be a superstar, because superstars are naturally hated because of their skills, not because of their actions. As much as it killed me to not put Karl Malone on this list, I had to realize my dislike mainly stems from his skills, more than the fact that he was a big turd.
2) The player has to have some actual basketball value for his team other than just coming off the bench so he can land a hay-maker on an opposing player. A.K.A, no cheerleaders like the immortally useless Mark Madsen.
P.S: You earn bonus points if you played a part in David Stern’s Michael Corleone like transformation from a nice commissioner to the iron-fist dictator he is now.
C: Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons
This “Bad Boy” Piston was the epitome of the 80’s Pistons style of play. He probably has the NBA record for most punches thrown at because he dished out flagrant fouls that even the NBA refs couldn’t miss.
If the NBA paralled wrestling, he would be the ultimate heel, a reason why his nicknames included "The Prince of Darkness," "Street Thug," and the "Ax Murderer."
Notable incidents include starting a fight with Larry Bird in Game Three of the ’87 Conference Finals that got him and the Celtics best player (Bird) ejected from the game. As a result, the game ended in a Piston’s rout, as the Celtics obviously missed Bird more than the Pistons did Laimbeer.
Bill wasn’t finished, he antagonized the “Chief” Robert Parish so much that the usually reserved center, clocked Laimbeer in the face in Game Five, earning Parish a one-game suspension for Game Six, which not surprisingly the Pistons also won.
He also started the original fan-player brawl in Detroit, when he faced-off with Charles Barkley and the fight ended with Barkley going after a Pistons fan.
He was also the main instigator of the Jordan Rules, developed by the Pistons, which involved hacking MJ relentlessly so he would physically break down by the end of the game. He was hated so much in Chicago, that the Bulls mascot, Benny the Bull, even staged a fight with a Laimbeer doll.
Laimbeer was also the evolutionary origin of the NBA flopper, a legacy that is carried on in a much sissier fashion by today’s players. Sure Laimbeer fell after being fouled, but he also fell after being punched in the face, and would never back down in a fight.
Now the European infusion of the NBA game has infected the floppers too, who fall down when grazed by an opposing player’s jersey. They also talk a lot of trash, but run away when being punched…ala Carmelo Anthony.
Laimbeer wasn’t just a tough guy, he was an excellent shooter for a big man. Laimbeer had the ability to shoot threes, an uncommon ability for a center, and was an excellent rebounder, leading the league in defensive rebounds from 1982-1990.
Laimbeer excelled in the pick and roll game with Isiah Thomas, as his shooting forced defenders to come outside, opening up the lane for Isiah.
Laimbeer was a four-time All-Star, is the Pistons career leader in rebounds, and was highly durable for a big man. In fact his streak of 685 consecutive games played only ended because he was suspended after a fight with Brad Daugherty.
He also was criticized by the Beastie Boys in the song "Tough Guy", and everyone knows that if the Beastie Boys call you out in a song, you truly are a villain.
But nothing signifies Laimbeer’s legacy as a villain, as the SNES game that bore his name, Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball.
Its plot revolved around the NBA in 2030 with none other than Laimbeer as the commissioner. Commissioner Laimbeer got rid of the referees so fouls didn’t exist, players wore armor, and you could throw bombs onto the court.
Stern Connection: Stern probably shuddered at the thought of Laimbeer becoming commissioner and he is furiously working on a cryogenic time chamber that will keep him alive for the next 100 years and extend his rule over the NBA Empire.
Next: PF, Dennis Rodman