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NBA 75: Kevin McHale, forgotten in the presence of Larry Bird (TSN Archives)

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NBA 75: Kevin McHale, forgotten in the presence of Larry Bird (TSN Archives)

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The NBA celebrates the players on the NBA 75 roster almost daily by the end of the season. Today’s winner is Kevin McHale, the Celtics icon who early in his career as the sixth man in Boston was only half-jokingly portrayed in The Sporting News by another NBA player as “not really an athlete”. And yet in this story, from February 23, 1987, TSN’s issue was called the best power forward in the NBA.

Who is the best forward in the National Basketball Association? In the world?

Ask any coach, general manager, or NBA player. Ask the Russians, Italians or Spaniards. Ask this question of anyone who knows basketball, and you can bet the answer will be Kevin McHale.

Who is second?

No one is near.

How long has it been like this?

A long moment.

So why has McHale only been an All-Star three times in seven years?

Dumb fans, dumb trainers and Larry Bird.

And why was he never even a part of the All-NBA Second Team?

Stupid writers, stupid gamers, and Larry Bird.

McHale might be an underrated superstar, but players lucky enough to be on the same team as Bird have to settle for winning championships, not individual honors. Few have been happier than McHale, the 6-10, 230-pound Boston Celtics forward who gives his opponents fits and Bird the go-ahead.

At the all-star break, McHale was sixth in the league with an average of 26.4, third in field goal percentage at 0.603 and sixth in shots blocked at 2.43. He also averaged 10 rebounds per game, managed 83% of his free shots, played better defense than any forward in the league and averaged almost 40 minutes per game.

Pretty good for a guy who is always ignored by writers and other players when voting for the All-NBA team.

“I think Kevin deserves it more than I do right now,” Bird said. “I think he’s had a better year. He’s done everything a lot better than the previous years because nobody can stop him. Right now Kevin is probably our most valuable player.”

But Bird was the league’s MVP for three consecutive years. Great, but should that have had a negative effect on the official recognition of McHale’s greatness?

“I don’t think there is any doubt that it bothers,” said Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley, who has nightmares when considering matching attackers with McHale and Bird. “I think so much recognition can go to one man that it pretty much stops the other players on the team from getting overwhelming credit. What Kevin McHale did with over 20 points and double-digit rebounds every night is exceptional. I think he’s the toughest player in the league to defend one on one. He gets his due, but take Bird off the squad and they talk about MVPs. All the time. “

Of course, McHale gave little thought to the less-than-critical issue of being a first-team All-NBA, or MVP.

“Maybe it’s the Boston influence,” McHale said. “Maybe it’s around legends like Russell, Cousy, Havlicek, Heinsohn and Cowens. But other things don’t mean much. When you think about it, I’ll still have those three championship rings. in the spotlight in my house All the rest, what does it mean what people say about you and what people write about you? Paper yellows. These rings stay forever.

It’s true. Still, it seems inconsistent for McHale to be recognized as the best at his job and never to appear on the award lists.

“There are a lot of things that just aren’t consistent,” McHale said. “But to tell you the truth, I don’t think about it and don’t care. It’s the kind of thing that maybe, once you’re done playing, you look back and say that it was great to do this or that, but while i play i don’t care about that.

When McHale puts the ball inside, he not only uses his unusually long reach to shoot defenders, but he invariably gets easy baskets with a fake pump and then takes a step towards the basket. When stuck, it can shoot the flipping, 12ft fadeaway with 60% accuracy

In defense, he can stop any striker in the league one-on-one. NBA coaches officially recognized his defensive prowess last season when they elected him to the all-defensive first team

“It takes a lot of pressure off me,” Bird said. “He can keep just about anyone – the big man, the fast man. I can double down and throw the ball at him, and he’ll do things. He’s a good bully and a good shot blocker,” so you can throw your man at him all night.

In short, he’s the best forward in the NBA. But you knew it.



NBA 75: Kevin McHale, forgotten in the presence of Larry Bird (TSN Archives)

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