Bill Laimbeer: 'I play to win no matter what'
NBA legend Bill Laimbeer visited London in January to attend NBA London Live 2013 presented by adidas featuring a regular-season game between the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks. NBA Africa caught up with two-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA All-Star Bill Laimbeer to talk about his basketball career, coaching in the WNBA and the growing popularity of NBA basketball worldwide.
Pawel Weszka, NBA Africa: You have been known as a fierce competitor from your playing days with the Detroit Pistons and were a key player on the Pistonsí championship teams in 1989 and 1990. Where does your competitive drive come from?
Bill Laimbeer: I am a competitor from way back when I was playing baseball, when I was a youngster, and golf. This is something which is inside of everybody as competitors and Iím one of those. I play to win no matter what.
NBA Africa: What made you choose basketball as a career?
Laimbeer: I grew (smiling). I played a lot of sports, baseball and golf were my favorites, but I got to a height when it made sense to play basketball. I played for college and eventually made a very good living out of it.
NBA Africa: You played against some of the best centers in NBA history. Who was the most difficult to guard?
Laimbeer: Besides Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), and he was very difficult, the quick ones, like Hakeem Olajuwon, were the most difficult for me to guard.
NBA Africa: It has been almost twenty years since you stopped playing professionally. How is the game different today?
Laimbeer: I think that the big men are more perimeter today than they are inside. There is a lack of interior centers these days from the generations gone by. And the players are bigger, faster and stronger Ė there is no question about that. The court has shrunk up because of their speed, athleticism and their size and itís a little crowded out there.
NBA Africa: You have been very successful coaching in the WNBA and won three championships with the Detroit Shock, and you have also coached in the NBA. How could you compare coaching men and womenís teams?
Laimbeer: The women listen much better than the guys do. The want to be coached and they want to learn whereas the guys think they know everything and they want to be the show. And also, the womenís game is a five-on-five basketball whereas the menís game is probably two-on-two or three-on-three, so itís different in those aspects.
NBA Africa: After your NBA adventure with the Minnesota Timberwolves, you are back in the WNBA. What does the future hold for Bill Laimbeer?
Laimbeer: Iím going back to the WNBA with the New York Liberty. I enjoy that, the players are a lot of fun and itís a good coaching environment. I miss the competitiveness so Iím going to do that and what the future holds I really donít know.
NBA Africa: Lastly, we have seen many international players coming up the ranks in recent years, also from the African continent. Will we see more talent coming up from that part of the world?
Laimbeer: Well, itís a global sport. David Stern has made it such. Heís very big on exposing the rest of the world to the game of NBA basketball. It takes time, there is no question about that, but once you are exposed to it and realize the opportunities then it takes a whole generation for a country to develop their talent, if they have the proper coaching. And that is the big key, the proper coaching, because you can have the greatest athletic talent in the world, and theyíd be shoved often to football, rugby or some other sport than basketball just because itís not an established sport.