Kevin McHale made an immediate impact with the Boston Celtics. McHale was part of a one-sided trade with the Golden State Warriors right before the 1980 NBA Draft. The Celtics had the top pick in the draft and traded it, along with the No. 13 pick, to the Golden State Warriors. In return, the Celtics received center Robert Parish and the third pick. With that No. 3 pick, they selected McHale.
McHale and Parish joined a young Larry Bird, who had just won Rookie of the Year honors. In their first year together, the Celtics won the first of their three NBA championships in the 1980s, knocking off the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. McHale spent all 13 years of his professional basketball career with the Celtics. We took a look at five of his signature moments while playing for Boston.
No. 5: Kevin McHale collects career-high 10 assists vs. the Dallas Mavericks
For many, 10 assists wouldn’t be considered a signature moment. When the 6-foot-10 McHale did it, it was beyond surprising.
McHale wasn’t nicknamed “The Black Hole” for nothing. McHale was one of the best offensive big men in the league and had some of the best low-post moves in NBA history. When the ball went inside to him, it rarely came back out.
On April 3, 1988, McHale did the unthinkable. He posted a game-high 10 assists in a 110-101 home win over the Dallas Mavericks. McHale finished with 20 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. Nobody on the Mavs had more than six assists.
No. 4: McHale drags a fan out of the stands during a playoff game in Milwaukee
During Game 3 of the 1987 playoffs, McHale had no problem taking charge against a heckling fan seated behind the Celtics bench. McHale fouled out of the game. Instead of going back and sitting on the bench, McHale stepped into the stands to confront a fan. McHale’s teammates Fred Roberts and Jerry Sichting described the scene to Sportscasting back in May.
“McHale came off the floor, and he climbed over our chairs and went into the stands,” Roberts told Sportscasting. “I don’t know what was said or what started it, but he just climbed over us and confronted someone.”
“I think he was a lawyer or something,” Sichting said of the fan. “There was some crazy stuff in the paper about us doing drugs on the bench or something, and he was saying stuff. I think he just wanted a lawsuit.
“McHale went over and grabbed him by the tie and pulled him in front of the bench. I’m in the middle of the huddle. I can only imagine if that happened today how many guys would have been suspended. Security carried him out.”
No. 3: McHale nets career-high 56 points against the Detroit Pistons
On March 3, 1985, McHale and the Celtics found themselves rolling against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics put up 70 points in the first half, and McHale was unstoppable. He finished the night by making 22 of his 28 field-goal attempts en route to a 56-point effort.
The 56 points were a team record, breaking Bird’s previous team-high of 53.
“The points just kept piling up, and I kept getting the ball in good situations and scoring it,” McHale said, per Yahoo Sports. “Before you knew it, I looked up on the board back at the old Garden, and they had the runner in the back that said ‘new Celtics’ team record,’ and I was like ‘Wow. I didn’t even know I was capable.’”
The record lasted nine days. Bird reclaimed the record by putting up 60 points in a game against the Atlanta Hawks.
No. 2: The clothesline against Kurt Rambis in the 1984 NBA Finals
The Celtics desperately needed a boost during Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. They had been completely outplayed through the first three games. If not for Gerald Henderson’s late steal in Game 2, the Celtics would be staring at a 3-0 series deficit.
In Game 4, the Celtics trailed 76-70 before McHale took down Lakers forward Kurt Rambis with a hard clothesline foul as Rambis drove in on a fast break. Benches cleared and tensions rose, but McHale remained in the game. No technical foul was called.
Momentum changed, and the Celtics went on to win their second overtime game of the series. Boston outlasted the Lakers in the series, winning in seven games.
No. 1: McHale played the 1987 NBA Finals with a fractured foot
In 1987, the Celtics reached the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. They looked for a title repeat as they faced the rival Los Angeles Lakers. During the playoffs, McHale missed some time with a right foot injury that later required surgery to repair a fracture.
McHale played through pain in the six-game championship series that Boston lost. According to NBA.com, McHale said he believed playing in the 1987 Finals probably shortened his career. It was reported that the pain was so severe that he used a patio chair from the hotel pool as a walker but still played 40 minutes each game.