BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics president Danny Ainge had a hard-earned reputation as a player you’d “love to hate” if he were not wearing your team’s uniform. Not only did he play an aggressive style that often agitated and frustrated opponents, he didn’t help his own cause by calling for fouls against him – and often (always?) complaining when he didn’t get said calls.
Ainge himself admitted in a 1988 interview that he would watch himself play and call himself “a whiner” and added: “I’m not trying to start any fights. There’s not a guy in a league that I could beat up in a fight.” Nonetheless, he had several intense confrontations with opponents throughout his career. The photo above depicts a near-brawl in 1985 between Ainge and then-Laker Byron Scott, who had thrown a forearm to the back of Ainge’s head.
Ainge told Toucher & Rich that he played in an era that allowed a lot more physicality and nastiness, and it shows in these classic clips from the ’80s and ’90s. Today’s NBA feels almost excessively friendly compared to the days of Larry Bird and Bill Laimbeer beating the crap out of each other.
Nonetheless, here are Danny Ainge’s greatest hits you can find on Youtube.
Ainge vs. Tree Rollins, 1983
Perhaps the most infamous incident of Ainge’s career, and for good reason. Wayne “Tree” Rollins throws a huge elbow in Ainge’s face as he runs by, which provokes Ainge to literally tackle the seven-footer to the court.
Fun fact(s): Rollins bit Ainge on the hand in the bottom of that pile, yet Ainge was so unlikable as an opposing player the narrative went that he was the one doing the biting.
Ainge vs. Sedale Threatt, 1986
Probably the last time you’ll ever hear “That was a solid right hand” called during a basketball game. Ainge takes a nice hook to the chin and staggers around while trying to keep his dukes up. Ainge probably re-watched this clip and said, “I deserved that.”
Ainge vs. Michael Jordan, 1993
Ainge was very hate-able as an opponent, but this is an example of why you loved him if he were on your own team. He wasn’t afraid to go at it with anyone, even standing up to Michael Jordan in this clip. You can see why people disliked Ainge as a player, though, as he calls for a foul after Jordan’s elbow grazed his cheek.
Ainge vs. Sam Cassell, 1994
Ainge’s comments on Toucher & Rich came from questions asked about controversial remarks by his former Phoenix Suns teammate Charles Barkley, who called for players to take hard, even flagrant fouls with teams who they feel are disrespecting them in blowouts. Barkley had a front row seat to Ainge’s 1994 scuffle with then-rookie Sam Cassell, whose face appears to take a right hand.
This is followed by Cassell basically saying “Is this guy serious?!” and Ainge asking “What, what happened?”
Ainge vs. Mario Elie, 1994
This isn’t the most intense incident of Ainge’s career, but it’s certainly the most hilarious. Rockets forward Mario Elie, whose head clearly had Ainge dancing around in it, beats Ainge with a jumper then immediately taunts him. Instead of starting a tussle right then and there, Ainge waits for the perfect opportunity to needle Elie back, and he does it in the form of chucking a basketball right at his face.
Ainge was fined $5,000 for the incident (about $8,000 in 2016 dollars) and later admitted he meant to throw the ball in Elie’s direction, but not necessarily hit him in the head.