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The 1985-86 season was as good as it gets for the Boston Celtics. After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1985 NBA Finals, the Celtics knew they had to make a change. They did, and it made all the difference.

The Celtics pulled off a trade for veteran center Bill Walton to come in and spell Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Depth was Boston’s biggest problem in ’85, and the addition of Walton gave the ’86 Celtics all the confidence in the world.

Kevin McHale recalls the 1985-86 season with the Boston Celtics

Bill Walton of the Boston Celtics gets position on Darryl Dawkins of the New Jersey Nets during an NBA game circa 1986 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

The Celtics entered the 1985-86 season with revenge on their mind. Watching the Lakers celebrate a championship in the Boston Garden in 1985 was tough to swallow. The Celtics had four future Hall of Famers in the starting lineup, but they didn’t have a whole lot coming off the bench.

Boston added guard Jerry Sichting and then swing a deal for Walton. They sent veteran forward Cedric Maxwell and a first-round pick for Walton, who came in and earned Sixth Man of the Year honors.

McHale said in order for the Celtics to be successful, especially now with five future Hall of Famers on the team, they had to be unselfish. There could be no egos. They all knew they were capable of putting up big numbers individually, but they had to enjoy each other’s success and ride the hot hand when necessary.

“It’s the ‘we’ before ‘me,” McHale said to Maxwell last year on The Cedric Maxwell Podcast. “If you can’t enjoy your teammates’ success, you’re in the wrong business. You need to go play tennis because then you’re by yourself and you can go yell at the linesmen or do whatever you want. But if you don’t enjoy your teammates’ success, you can only go so far.”

The Celtics won 67 games that season and cruised through the postseason. McHale’s only regret was that they didn’t meet the Lakers in the 1986 NBA Finals. The Houston Rockets upset the Lakers in the conference finals, and Boston eliminated Houston in six games.

McHale said he knew the ’86 team would always find a way to win


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Larry Bird and McHale have said that the ’86 championship team was the best team they played on. There were so many options in the starting lineup with Bird, McHale, Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge. If anyone had an off night, any of the four others could pick up the slack.

“We still had some scars from ’83 when we lost to Milwaukee,” McHale recalled to NBC Sports. “We took it out on people. It’s hard to describe that to people. I don’t think it was arrogance. It’s just, we’re better than you, and we’ll show we’re better than you.

“There was never a doubt in my mind at all. There was a joyousness about that team and how we played and how we got together. Having Danny and DJ and Bill and Robert and Larry and all these guys. Nothing was too big for that team.

“Whatever you put in front of us, we were going to find a way to get it done. It helped developed such a strong bond. We went out and we partied a lot.”

After winning the championship in ’86, the Celtics returned to the NBA Finals, but Walton played just 10 games that year as injuries mounted again. They lost to the Lakers.

“It was like the end of a magical ride of supreme confidence or the inevitability that we were going to win, that we were going to find a way,” McHale said. “Just the group of guys we had were really, really tight. The best team I ever played on.”

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