With his long, loping arms and awkward, almost gawky gait up and down the court, Kevin McHale did not look the part of an NBA legend. Coupled with a propensity for honesty with the press ( McHale was one of those rare athletes who never flinched from a difficult question, often to the exasperation of teammates, coaches and front office staff) ) and a reputation for enjoying his spare time a little bit too much, it was hard for opponents to take him as seriously as they might have. McHale himself did not help this reputation with his quick and easy wit. Early in his career he took full advantage of this against underprepared opposing teams. Late in his career, when everyone knew just how good he had become, other teams still could not stop the Minnesota native.
McHale was Minnesota's "Mr. Basketball" as a high school senior in 1976. However, Minnesota not being known as a hardwood paradise, he was lightly recruited and ended up playing for the home-state University of Minnesota Gophers. In his time at the university McHale managed to be named All-Big Ten twice, become the school's second all-time leading scorer AND rebounder and averaged 15 points per game. He was named the greatest player in school history in 1995.
In one of the great draft swindles in NBA history, Red Auerbach acquired McHale in the 1980 NBA draft for the Boston Celtics and the rookie made an immediate impact. Joining Larry Bird in the front court, he was named to the All-Rookie team and helped the 'Celts to a 62-20 record And the 1981 title.
McHale then began a stretch of three seasons where he won the NBA's Sixth Man award as the best "bench" player in the league. However, it was apparent to all who watched his game that he was far more than A sub, often playing more minutes than the starters he replaced. McHale became infamous duirng this time for his hard foul on Kurt Rambis of the Lakers in the 1984 NBA finals. This foul is often credited with pulling the Celtics together as a team and creating the special spirit champions require. The Celtics would grab the 1984 title in seven games.
The big power forward with the loping run downcourt and seemingly inexhaustible array of moves in the post was now at the peak of his powers as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. He became the starter in late February 1985 and just a few weeks later broke the Celtic's single-game scoring record with 56 against the Detroit Pistons on March 3, 1985.
The Celtics lost to the Lakers in the Finals in 1985 but roared back in 1986 to win their third title with McHale as a player. He joined Larry Bird and center Robert Parish as one-third of the legendary "Big Three" in Celtics' lore. He called his moves against defenders in the paint "the torture chamber" and was seemingly unstoppable. Until injuries hit.
In late 1987, McHale broke his right foot. While he would continue to play at an all-star level (with surgical screws in the foot), McHale was never again the same player and the Celtics, suffering from his and Larry Bird's serious injuries, were never again the same team.
Kevin McHale was a seven-time All-Star and three time All-Defensive team selection. He averaged 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game and was named to the All-Time NBA team. He is a Hall of Famer and a true Celtic original.