As a kid reading the back of a Tree card, I didn’t quite understand how he’d been in the league so long. He never averaged even 10 points per game. The true importance of defense, especially post defense, didn’t click with me as a little dude. But Tree in his time was nicknamed “The Intimidator” for a reason. Rollins remains ninth all-time in blocked shots in NBA history.
Danny Ainge was the victim of the weirdest injury that I can remember in the NBA. In a 1983 first-round playoff game with Atlanta, Ainge tried to tackleTree Rollins. Ainge shrieked in pain from the ensuing tangled pile of bodies.
“We got into a little scuffle out on the court by the foul line and he almost bit my finger off,” Ainge said. “He bit it all the way through. I had to get two stitches.”
He raised his right hand to reveal the scar on his middle finger.
“Usually, you don’t put stitches on a human bite,” he said. “But just to keep everything in there together, they had to put a couple of stitches in there.”
Did he realize that someone was biting him?
“Oh, yeah, I knew it was happening,” he said. “Oh, yeah.”
The next day, theBoston Heraldpublished one of the great headlines: “Tree Bites Man.”
One of the game’s classic shot blockers, Rollins came to Houston after spending a season with the Detroit Pistons. The longtime Hawks center saw extended playing time early in 1991/92 because of Hakeem Olajuwon’s injury problems.