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Kevin McHale praises three men for pushing the growth of the NBA and getting “us all paid”

Kevin McHale saw how Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's rivalry and David Stern's vision helped elevate the league.
Kevin McHale during halftime in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game

Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale is a living time capsule. He started playing in the 80s, retired in the 90s, and coached in the 2010s. Looking back on his time in the NBA, McHale credited three men responsible for making the league as big as it is right now.

Magic, Bird, and David Stern

McHale played for the Boston Celtics all his career. He was teammates with Larry Bird for 12 seasons, so he got a front-row seat to the intense rivalry between Bird and Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin claimed that without Bird and Magic, the NBA would not be as popular today. But the power forward credited another person for pushing the league at that time - David Stern.

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“The league was kind of building around Larry and Magic. It was always Magic and the Lakers and Larry and the Celtics. They built it up, man. David Stern did a great job. God bless his soul. He got us all, everybody, paid. I tell everybody there’s three people that propelled the league — Larry, Magic, and David Stern.”

Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell Podcast

Michael Jordan played his part, but the Celtics and Lakers rivalry started the trend. At that time, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had already retired, and the NBA needed new faces of the league. Thanks to Magic vs. Bird and David Stern’s vision, basketball is now a global sport with fans on every continent of Earth.

David Stern made the game global

Stern began acting as NBA commissioner in 1984, but he had already made some significant improvements before assuming the position. In 1983, Stern helped create a salary cap that was a first for all major sports leagues. A salary cap created a level playing field among teams and ensured greater competition.

Players today have multi-year guaranteed contracts because of the former commissioner. Not only that, Stern was responsible for inking TV deals that brought the games to international viewers. He’s also the mastermind behind the Dream Team, which featured NBA superstars in international competitions.

Stern is no longer with us, but the improvements and rule changes he made are still positively impacting the league, fans, and players. His stint as the commissioner may not be perfect, but he left the NBA in a better place. David Stern created the blueprint on how to run a successful professional sports league, and the sporting universe should thank him for it. 

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