Larry Bird couldn’t seem to take the physical play from Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman any longer as he had a fight with them in ‘87.
Larry Bird established himself as one of the NBA’s foremost superstars in merely his second season with the Boston Celtics. After winning the NBA Finals in 1981 in 6 games against the Houston Rockets, the Celtics and the Lakers were at each other’s neck for the remainder of the 1980s.
Of course, in between their intense rivalry, several other teams sprouted up from both conferences to challenge. The Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius Erving were a threat to both the Lakers and the Celtics, the Rockets were consistently good, and Michael Jordan and his Bulls gave teams trouble towards the end of the decade.
However, one team that stood out among them all was the late 80s to early 90s Detroit Pistons led by Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, and of course, floor general, Isiah Thomas.
They earned themselves the moniker, ‘Bad Boys’ for their physical style of play and constant roughhousing. It’s safe to say that Larry Bird eventually had enough of it when the stakes were at their highest.
Larry Bird goes off against Dennis Rodman and the Pistons.
Larry Bird and his Celtics were coming off an incredible 1986 season which many believe to be the greatest iteration of Bird’s Celts. They headed into the ‘87 season as defending champs and posted a 59-23 record going into the Playoffs.
The Pistons on the other hand had just been eliminated in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks in 1986. Going into the 1987 season, expectations were higher and they sure delivered. they reached the ECF and had a date set up against ‘The Hick from French Lick’.
The series was a grueling one and went the full 7 games. There were several highlights in this series. Everything from Bird averaging 36 points from Games 5-7 to him getting the game-winning steal and assist to Dennis Johnson for the win in Game 6; this was an all-timer.
However, one particular moment set the tone for the rest of the series and subsequently acted as a way of letting the Pistons know that their bullying tactics weren’t going to work on the battle-tested Celtics.
A fight broke out in Game 3 between Bird and two of the Pistons’ most physical players: Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer.
Larry Bird completely loses it against Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. pic.twitter.com/iec6w1Cxh4
— Oldskoolbball (@Oldskoolbball2) April 23, 2022
Aside from him choking out Julius Erving, this was perhaps his most iconic fight during his NBA career. Michael Jordan weighed in on the situation as well, claiming that foul by Laimbeer was much more than just a Flagrant.
All in all, Larry Bird walked out victorious that series but would unfortunately fall at the hands of Magic Johnson and the Lakers in 6 games in the NBA Finals.