A Young Kevin Gamble Was Pranked by Boston Celtics Teammates During Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Farewell Tour

Kevin Gamble came to the Boston Celtics just as the 1980s dynasty was coming to a close. The stars were still there — Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson — but injuries took their toll.

The Big Three was aging, and the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls were taking over as the beasts of the East. Gamble had just inked a deal with Boston, and it didn’t take long for the veterans to take advantage of the newcomer during one of the biggest regular-season games on the schedule.

Kevin Gamble played six seasons with the Boston Celtics

Kevin Gamble of the Boston Celtics looks on against the Washington Bullets during an NBA basketball game circa 1992 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

Gamble was a third-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1987 NBA Draft. He was a victim of a numbers game in Portland and played just nine games in his rookie year before getting waived.

After bouncing around in the Continental Basketball Association, playing in the Philippines, and taking part in the World Basketball League, he signed with the Celtics during the 1988-89 season. He played in 44 games and averaged 4.3 points in 8.5 minutes.

Gamble, a 6-foot-5 forward out of Iowa, spent the next five years in Boston, playing a much larger role with the team. During the 1991-92 season, Gamble played all 82 games, starting 76. He showed what he was capable of if given the opportunity.

Gamble averaged 33.0 minutes that season and put up a career-high 15.6 points. He averaged double figures in scoring over the next four seasons. During his time with the Celtics, Gamble put up 11.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.

Gamble signed with the Miami Heat as a free agent before the 1994-95 season. He played two years with the Heat and finished his career with two seasons with the Sacramento Kings.

Gamble was the victim of a prank by his teammates during his first year with the Celtics

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When Gamble first came to the Celtics, he was in awe. Imagine coming from the CBA and then seeing Bird, McHale, and Parish on the court when you went to practice? Gamble remembers being a nervous wreck during his first practice session, but the Celtics made him feel right at home.

“The first day of practice I walk out there, and the guys are already on the court,” Gamble told Michael D. McClellan of Celtic Nation. “I’m shaking in my boots a little bit, but it’s easy to understand why: You look at the other end of the court, and you see Kevin McHale. You see Larry Bird. You see Dennis Johnson. 

“It’s like, ‘Wow.’ It didn’t feel like I had arrived. It was more a need to show these guys that I could play.  Practice proceeded, and those guys welcomed me with open arms.”

Gamble also remembered when Johnson played a little trick on him when the Celtics played the rival Lakers.

“Dennis came up to me and said that it was a tradition in Boston to have the new guy lead them out (onto the court from the locker room),” Gamble said. “I can’t remember if it was my first game with the team, but I do remember that it was during Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s farewell tour. We were playing the Lakers, of course, and I ran out of the tunnel and into the gym. 

“When I got on the court, I turned around and looked back, and all of the guys were still back there in the tunnel, laughing at me.  It was funny because here I am, this young kid standing on the fabled parquet floor, who has watched this place on television for years and years, through all of those battles between the Celtics and the Lakers, and also against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“That’s what made it so horrifying for me, and such a good joke for them.  I was so nervous, and I was also embarrassed. For them to put me out there like that, I’m surprised that I didn’t faint.”