Nice to know there are some things we can still count on. In this NBA era where hugs and friendly banter among stars precede every big game, a couple of '80s rivals maintain a heavy disdain for one another to this day.
Bill Laimbeer, in Indy to coach the WNBA Detroit Shock, was on the air with 1070 The Fan's Eddie White and Bob Kravitz for an extended interview this afternoon. I always hated Laimbeer as a Piston but fully appreciated his game, knowing if he was on my team I'd love the way he drove everyone on the opposition nuts. The whole interview is interesting because Laimbeer is one sharp dude. He's smart, witty and still has no problem dishing it out.
Now to the good stuff. In the middle of the interview, Larry Bird's name was brought into the conversation and it was obvious the two haven't mended any fences since fighting for the ultimate NBA prize throughout the late '80s. Their careers overlapped for 11 Eastern Conference seasons and numerous intense playoff games. So while the following video is the most overt reason for the bad blood, I'm sure the two share knowledge of hundreds of other incidents involving errant elbows and vile comments that were never noticed by the masses. By the way, don't miss the 3:30 mark. Is that a young John Green? Detroit Cup City.
This history appeared fresh in Laimbeer's mind today as he took some humorous shots at Bird, first pretending he didn't know what Bird was doing and then landing a few not so subtle jabs about Bird's lack of success in the front office with the Pacers. He did admit that turning around a struggling NBA team is tough and requires losing at some point plus some luck to get the right talent. Here are my favorite parts of the interview.
Kravitz: When you come to Indianapolis in a situation like this can we assume you and Larry Bird will be going out and having a couple of cocktails together.
Laimbeer: Larry Bird?
Kravitz: Talk about the old days
Laimbeer: He's here in Indiana? (sarcasm oozing)
Laimbeer: Oh .. Oh, that's right I did, I heard he works for the Pacers now.
Kravitz: He does have a job. We're very happy about that.
Laimbeer: I don't really pay attention to how they're doing. Have they made the playoffs the last few years?
Kravitz: Uhh, I don't believe so, I'll have to check the books on that one.
Laimbeer: That'd drive me nuts, boy.
Kravitz: Not making the playoffs?
Laimbeer: I mean, not competing for the championship and being in the playoffs.
Kravitz: And everyone makes the playoffs.
Laimbeer: I'd probably quit.
Laimbeer's comments actually put Kravitz back on his heels which is pretty funny. After some banter with Eddie White, who by the way did a remarkable job of sucking up to both Laimbeer and Bird throughout the interview, the topic continued.
Laimbeer: For a competitor like him and myself or Isiah or Magic Johnson - having a job, you can get a job anywhere. So why are you in the business? You're in the business to compete for the championship and if you're not able to compete for the championship, you can't get the job done, what are you doing there?
Kravitz: Sometimes guys who are rivals on the court, like Larry and Magic, they're pretty good friends they stay in touch. You don't have that relationship, you don't have A relationship with Larry is what I'm picking up on. Do you just not like him?
Laimbeer: I just don't care to.
Kravitz: Does this go back to '87 or is this even pre-fight?
Laimbeer: Oh, we've never...we didn't grow up together. We've never hung out together and never been friend, so why would I want to go hang out with Larry Bird.
The conversation continues for another five minutes ending with a final comment from Eddie about Laimbeer coaching over at the Fieldhouse.
Kravitz: Can you see Larry hiring him?
Eddie: Would you take that call? Larry Bird calls and says, "Listen I gonna make a change, you want to talk about coaching?"
Laimbeer: (Laughing) Larry Bird would not call.
Now if we could only hear a reaction from Larry Joe Legend. I'm sure there'd be a reference to Laimbeer's successful WNBA coaching career. I'm also sure it would probably offend my wife and other strong-minded women like her, but I'm also sure it would be funny.
I recommend listening to the whole interview (below) because Laimbeer has some interesting insights on running a team both in the WNBA and NBA. Great stuff!