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When Kevin McHale arrived in Boston, he didn’t come alone. Red Auerbach constructed one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history when he acquired the No. 3 overall selection in the 1980 NBA Draft, which turned out to be McHale, along with 7-footer Robert Parish. All Auerbach coughed up were the No. 1 and No. 13 picks in that 1980 NBA Draft, and both turned out to be busts.

And so the legend was written of the day McHale, Parish and Larry Bird came together to create what is considered by many as the best frontline in league history.

Parish and Bird were already mainstays in the league, but it took a few years for McHale to make his mark. Although the Celtics won the NBA championship in his first season with Boston, McHale’s impact was relatively limited. His modest numbers of 10.0 PPG and 4.4 RPG as a rookie didn’t stand out, but they would soon enough.

Over the next six seasons, McHale incrementally bumped his scoring average all the way up to 26.1 PPG in 1986-87, which was the highest-scoring season of his career. His scoring average increased in each of his first seven years in the league. McHale was also a solid rebounder, topping out in 1986-87 with 9.9 RPG and finishing his career with an average of 7.3 RPG.

It’s a custom for Celtics stars to stick around in Boston for a while, and McHale was no exception. He spent his entire 13-year career in the NBA with Boston, winning three NBA championships and making seven All-Star teams. He carved out a niche as a top reserve during his first five seasons and won two Sixth Man of the Year awards in the process.

McHale’s production tapered off in his final two seasons as he dealt with lingering leg and back issues. Those ailments forced him to retire after 13 seasons, cutting his career off far earlier than it would have ended had he been healthy.

Still, though, despite his accelerated exit from the league, McHale built up a resume that not many can match. His accomplishments led to his selection to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History list, which was chosen by the league to celebrate its 50th season. The Celtics raised his number to the rafters on January 30, 1994, and he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with the class of 1999. He is still regarded as one of the most creative and successful post players ever.

McHale’s playing days were cut short, but he continued his involvement with the NBA. He was hired as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ assistant general manager in 1994 and ascended to the role of Vice President of Basketball Operations in 1995. He soon built a consistent contender in Minnesota thanks to the hiring of Flip Saunders and the drafting of Kevin Garnett.

As Celtics fans now know, McHale would eventually dish out one more assist for the Celtics when he played a lead role in the blockbuster trade that sent Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007. Thanks to that trade, which involved five players and other pieces moving to Minnesota, the Celtics were able to return to glory with their 17th championship in 2008.

McHale continued to serve a lead role in Minnesota’s basketball operations department, mostly as VP of Basketball Operations but also with stints as head coach, until the 2008-09 season came to a close. After serving up analysis for TNT and NBA TV for two seasons, McHale was hired as the head coach of the Houston Rockets on June 1, 2011.

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