At a towering 6-foot-11, Bill Laimbeer jokes that he never chose basketball. Rather the game of basketball chose him. Indeed, if this is the case, basketball made the right choice. Leading Laimbeer to fourteen years in the NBA, four NBA All-Star Games, and two NBA National Championships with the Detroit Pistons. Despite retiring from playing 1994, Laimbeer remains one of the few players to hold the record for scoring over 10,000 points and pulling down 10,000 rebounds during his career.
Retirement from the NBA, however, did not mean the game of basketball was done with Bill Laimbeer. After shedding his jersey, he took on a new role as a WNBA coach – first for the Detroit Shock and currently for the New York Liberty. In his transition from NBA player to WNBA coach, Laimbeer sees a strong future for the league.
“The WNBA women’s basketball is second to none,” said Laimbeer. “The talent is bigger, faster, stronger.”
Laimbeer credits the exposure that women’s sports teams have gained over the last 10-15 years. As girls start playing younger and their female role model pool grows, the effect is felt in the professional game, which Laimbeer says has spiked. Laimbeer sees that the women are not only playing as well as the men, they are playing harder.
“Men could make up for mistakes with athleticism, they make a turnover they make a steal right back or block a shot, a woman can’t do that. They have to be very fundamentally sound in order to compete at the highest level,” said Laimbeer.
” And they listen so much better then they guys do,” which Laimbeer credits with one of his largest joys as a coach – leading players who want to be lead.
But what do his former NBA cohorts think?
“[They have] respect that I can go deal with 11 very strong willed women.,” jokes Laimbeer.