Kevin McHale Insists His Greatest Basketball Honor Isn’t His Hall of Fame Induction
Kevin McHale was spoiled with the Boston Celtics. In his first year in the NBA, he won a championship. He played in four straight NBA Finals from 1984 to 1987, winning two more titles. Of course, the 6-foot-10 forward had a lot to do with hoisting those banners.
McHale was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time Sixth Man of the Year, and is a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. He capped his illustrious career with a 1999 induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While the Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of success for most, McHale said it wasn’t his greatest basketball honor.
Kevin McHale helped build the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1980s
McHale was part of one of the greatest trades in Celtics history. Red Auerbach orchestrated a move right before the 1980 NBA Draft. The Celtics just completed one of the best turnarounds in franchise history, winning 61 games during the 1979-80 season after putting up 29 the previous season.
Much of that success was because of a rookie named Larry Bird, who averaged 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season. Not only did the Celtics have the Rookie of the Year, but they also held the top pick in the 1980 NBA Draft as part of a compensation deal with the Detroit Pistons.
Auerbach traded the top pick to the Golden State Warriors. He also added the 13th pick in exchange for center Robert Parish and the third overall pick. With that third pick, the Celtics selected McHale.
McHale and Parish joined Bird to form arguably the best frontcourt in NBA history. In their first year together, Boston’s Big Three won 62 games and captured the first of their three championships of the decade, beating the Houston Rockets in six games.
Despite winning 63 and 56 games the next two seasons, the Celtics failed to reach the championship round. For the next four years, though, they reached the Finals, winning championships in 1984 and 1986.
McHale averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds in his career. He didn’t become a full-time starter until the 1985-86 season, although he played 30 minutes off the bench.
McHale said reaching the Hall of Fame isn’t his highest basketball honor
McHale made a living in the paint and may have the best low-post moves in NBA history. He played 13 seasons with the Celtics, earning numerous honors.
While he was inducted into the Hall in 1999, McHale said his greatest honor was seeing his No. 32 raised to the rafters. He joins several other Celtics legends with a permanent place high above courtside in Boston.
“That’s the one thing about going up there — you’re not going up there alone,” McHale said in a 2022 video put out by the Celtics. “You’re going up there with a host of players that left a mark in this league and that are unbelievable. I say it all the time, what (Bill) Russell and his Celtics did will never be duplicated ever again in professional sports. What they were able to do is unreal.
“It’s just an honor to go up there. I see old friends that aren’t with us anymore. I see Tom Heinson’s number, and I see Dennis Johnson, Reggie Lewis. You see the different guys. You look up there, and you think what a legacy of unbelievable players.
“Someone asked me when I went into the Hall of Fame in Springfield if that was the biggest honor. I said honestly it wasn’t. I think the biggest honor I’ve had is having my number retired as a Boston Celtic.”