ProHoopsHistory HOF: Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale

Awkward as hell, Kevin McHale possessed more post moves than meal options at the Golden Corral. Fortunately, his moves are far more delectable than anything available at that family-style buffet.

The gangly-armed, coat-hanger shouldered McHale beguiled defenses for a dozen years in the NBA. He could hit face up jumpers. He’d hit impossible to block turn around fade aways. He could swing hook shots. He had a twirling spin move. He could swoop up and then under for scoop shots. And his footwork,  my God, his footwork. Just when you thought you had McHale pinned, it turned out that you were the person in an untenable position.

He just wouldn’t make seemingly impossible shots on occasion, he did it with regularity. In 1987, he averaged a career-high 26.1 points per game. That same season he also shot a career-high 60.4% from the field.

For such a terrific player, McHale only started regularly during four seasons in his career: 1986 to 1989. Every other season he was Boston’s Sixth Man, ready and willing to deliver that offensive wizardry in a pinch. He’d also deliver great defense while he was at it. McHale’s long arms were great at sending back the shots of opponents. Also, unsurprising is that his nimble footwork translated onto the defensive end, so he could frustrate opposing big men in the post.

McHale, who’d twice win the Sixth Man of the Year Award, was a member on all three of the Boston Celtics’ title teams from the 1980s. Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and McHale formed perhaps the most imposing frontcourt trio in NBA history. Alongside them would be auxiliary big men in Cedric Maxwell and Bill Walton that’d make Boston nearly unstoppable.

However, by 1993, age and injury had slowed them all (except Parish who was some sort of cyborg that never aged). Bird was already retired and McHale entered his final season. He averaged just 11 points on an abysmal (for him) 46% shooting in the regular season. But in the playoffs, McHale came through with a game for the nostalgic ages against the Charlotte Hornets. In Game 2 of the series, McHale unleashed one last display of Torture Chamber magic scoring 30 points on 13-18 shooting.

The performance was for naught as Boston lost that game by 1 point, and ultimately the series. The Hornets may have won, but as Bill Russell explains at the end of the following clip, holding McHale in the post was like “trying to hold water in your hands.” For years and years, McHale would just slip through the defense for easy buckets like so much water falling between the cracks of your fingers.

Years Played: 1980 – 1993

Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics


3x Champion (1981, 1984, 1986)
2x Sixth Man of the Year (1984-’85)
All-NBA 1st Team (1987)
3x All-Defensive 1st Team (1986-’88)
3x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1983, 1989-’90)
7x All-Star (1984, 1986-’91)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1981)


NBA – 971Games
17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.7 BPG, 55.4% FG, 79.8% FG
2x FG% Leader (1987-’88)

Contemporary NBA Ranks (1981 – 1993)
10th Points, 13th FTs Made
10th FGs Made, 6th FG%
12th Rebounds, 30th RPG
6th Blocks, 10th BPG
3rd Games Played, 11th Minutes Played

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