One of the most underrated rivalries in NBA history is between Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, which had several great playoff battles in the ’80s. Both teams went head to head in multiple Eastern Conference Finals, and those games looked like a battlefield with a lot of physical play that is nowhere to be found in today’s NBA.
The biggest stars for the 76ers were Julius ‘Dr.J’ Erving, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, while for the Boston Celtics, it was Larry Bird alongside Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Both truly legendary teams with a lot of great and talented players.
In a recent show by Yahoo Sports called ‘Rivals Reunited,’ both McHale and Erving had the opportunity to meet again and talk about their old rivalry. McHale remembered his first game against Erving in his rookie season and how excited he was in having the opportunity to go up against a player he looked up to before coming to the NBA. Because of the rivalry between these two teams, older players on the Celtics told him not to shake Erving’s hand.
My first time playing against you, guys knew I was excited playing against you, and they were like, hey rookie, don’t go up and shake Doc’s hand or anything like that, they are the enemy. I loved the challenge of guarding you.Kevin McHale, via Rivals Reunited
Despite being an already outstanding two-way player with an incredible wingspan, McHale switched on Erving on defense, which meant he is in a lot of trouble. Everyone knows Erving loved going to his right, and that didn’t stop him from man-handling McHale and dunk on him as a rookie, which is something he remembers still to this day.
M.l. Carr tells me you gotta make him go left. And I said, ok, I will make him go left, but he goes right, and I was playing pretty far on your right hand, but he came back and dunked on me. I came over to the bench, and Carr says it wasn’t supposed to be easy; I just said you need to make him go left. He is one of the best players who ever played.Kevin McHale, via Rivals Reunited
Erving and McHale had the opportunity to meet on multiple occasions after McHale’s rookie season, and they both experienced some truly legendary games and moments between the two teams. Even though these two squads disliked each other a lot, the respect between them is real.