McHale, who spent his first four seasons as a great sixth man, was nicknamed the Black Hole by Bird and Ainge for his reluctance to pass the ball, even out of double teams.
Welcome to the NBA
Kevin McHale was second fiddle to Larry Bird for most of career and that just isn’t fair. Although known as one of the best power forwards ever, he will always be in the Legend’s shadow. Not for this post.
This is Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Eastern Conference finals with the Sixers up 3-2 on their home court. McHale was a rookie.
Not a bad start to a career. The Celtics disposed of the Sixers despite being down 3-1 and then went on to win the championship against the Rockets in the finals.
In ’82-83, his 3rd year, Kevin McHale signed a contract for a million dollars a year making him the 4th highest paid athlete at the time. This lead to McHales next defining moment of his career.
This foul was done in game 4 of the finals with the series at 2-1 in favor of the Lakers. It signified Boston’s physical play and they came back to win this game and then the series which was the franchise’s fifteenth championship.
Kevin McHale stories don’t stop there. On March 3rd, 1985 he drops 56 against the Pistons. This was the Celtics all-time record at the time. 4 days later, Larry Bird went for 60. I wonder if there was a competitive nature to that team? The 1985-86 Celtics teams is considered one of the greatest of all time and won the championship that year.
McHale had one of the best statistical seasons of all time the following year scoring 26 points a game, 9.9 rebounds, shot 60% from the floor, and 83% from the foul line (only time ever in NBA history). “When I was healthy, I always felt I could score,” McHale once told reporters. “When it went into what I called ‘The torture chamber,’ I knew it was in.
His latter career, although incredible for most, was not nearly as impressive as when he was in his prime. He was hampered with injuries (along with Larry Bird) and made the playoffs year after year but wasn’t what he once was. In one of the most forgotten aspects of his career, McHale made the all-defense first or second team six times. He is now the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
The Kevin McHale Story
Bird: Kevin McHale, one time, did one of the dirtiest things anybody can do to an opposing player. He told his buddy, a college friend, a teammate (at one point) at the end of the game in Golden State we were up pretty big — and we were just getting ready to go out of the game — and Kevin told him when he came in, he said, “When you get the ball in the low post, you just turn and shoot it over me, and I’ll just act like I’m defending you.” Sure enough, they threw it in there, he turned and Kevin batted the shot about six rows up into the stands. And I mean I felt so bad for the guy, and the guy was pissed. And I went over to (Celtics coach) K.C. Jones and I said, “Get me out of here. This kid’s out of control, this kid’s out of control.” It was the worst thing I’d ever seen on the basketball court, but that’s why I remember it to this day. You don’t do that to your friend (laughs).”
Chris Engler was the victim of this:
Engler: “The first time I got into a game against the Celtics, they were up by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Kevin and I were coming upcourt, and he whispered to me: ‘When you get the ball, just move in close and shoot a jumper. I won’t even block it. I want to make you look good.”
“I thought it was nice of him. So the first time I got the ball, I took my time and went up for my shot. Next thing I knew, Kevin was slapping the ball off my forehead.”
“He smiled and said, ‘Sorry, I lied.’ ”
McHale’s Torture Chamber