Kevin McHale Had a Tough Time Believing the 1980s Boston Celtics Dynasty Would Ever End

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Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale faces Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

While all good things must come to an end, former Boston Celtics star forward Kevin McHale never thought his team’s dynasty in the 1980s would ever stop. McHale and the Celtics had quite a run in the decade, winning championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986. They reached the NBA Finals four straight times from 1984 to 1987.

With Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson, Boston had four future Hall of Famers in the starting lineup during their ’86 title. Things were going so well for Boston, McHale never thought it would ever come to an end, especially so quickly.

Everything fell into place for Kevin McHale with the Boston Celtics

Kevin McHale found himself in a nice spot after the 1980 NBA Draft. He went into the draft as a top-five prospect, which likely meant he wasn’t headed to a winning team. That all changed when the Boston Celtics made a franchise-altering deal with the Golden State Warriors.

Thanks to a previous deal with the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics held the No. 1 spot in the ’80 draft. Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll was the consensus top pick, but Celtics GM Red Auerbach had his sights set on McHale. Auerbach put together a package together, sending the top pick and the No. 13 pick to Golden State. In return, Boston received Parish, a veteran center, and the third overall pick. At No. 3, the Celtics took McHale.

The rest is history.

Bird, McHale, and Parish eventually formed what is arguably the best frontcourt in NBA history. McHale wasn’t thrown into the fire. He learned from Celtics veteran Cedric Maxwell before permanently joining the starting lineup after the Celtics traded Maxwell before the 1985-86 season. McHale was a two-time winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.

McHale spent all 13 of his NBA playing years with the Celtics. He was a seven-time All-Star and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s also a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

McHale never thought the Celtics dynasty would end

Officially, the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1980s ended in 1988. Their run of four straight Finals appearances ended at the hands of the Detroit Pistons. Some have said it began with the death of Len Bias in 1986. Danny Ainge, a starting guard on two Celtics championship teams in the ’80s, said he believed the beginning of the end for Boston came in 1987 when injuries took over.

McHale said he thought the run would never end.

“You realize that when you are in the middle of a run, you think it’s never going to end,” McHale told The Boston Herald in 2020. “And I remember distinctly with the Celtics thinking that.

“From ’81 through ’87 we’d been in the Finals five times, and through our run, we went to the conference finals seven out of eight times. But you know what? When that comes to an end, man, it comes to an end fast. You get a couple of injuries and, really, it’s over.

“We were still able to win 50-something games, and the ’91 season before we all got hurt, I really thought we had a chance to make another run. But, man, it just ends.”