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Kurt Rambis on Kevin McHale's infamous 1984 NBA Finals clothesline "No replay, no ejections. I just went to the free throw line"


Los Angeles Lakers icons Kurt Rambis and Byron Scott looked back on their classic rivalry with the Boston Celtics back in the 80s. Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals stood out among all their battles because of a rough incident between Rambis and Celtics legend Kevin McHale. 

As Rambis went up for a lay-up during a fastbreak opportunity, McHale hit him with a massive clothesline, sweeping his feet off the floor, causing him to land on his back. Fortunately, Rambis "landed perfectly" on the hardcourt, free from minor or severe injury. Rambis recalled that a fight almost ensued after the rough foul. However, he was just too tired to engage. Now, nearly four decades later, Rambis can look back with laughter on that infamous incident. For him, the highlight of that play was the aftermath.

"The funny thing about that whole episode is that I just go to the free-throw line, shoot my two free-throws. No replay, no ejections, no fines, no nothing. Just go back and play."

Kurt Rambis, The Byron Scott Podcast

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What Rambis said was nothing but the truth. In today's game, McHale would have been slapped with a flagrant foul, ejected, fined, and suspended for at least a game. The NBA only introduced the flagrant foul in the 1990-91 season. In 1984, McHale's clothesline was just a plain foul. 

Although he has ample proof and first-hand experience, Rambis is not one of those old heads who would continually lambast the younger generation for being soft. Instead, Rambis, who became an NBA coach after his playing days, understands how the game evolves. 

"The game is always evolving and changing. You got to respect the fact that the game does change. And if you probably look at the players who played in the 50s, they would call us wimps. 'Cause there were all-out brawls then."

Kurt Rambis, The Byron Scott Podcast

Rambis, who has been a senior adviser for the Lakers since 2018, knows that the NBA is simply trying to protect its athletes, who, he believes are entertainers, too. As such, every player brings utmost value to their respective team. For fans, dunks, 3-pointers, great defensive plays are all excellent pieces of leisure. But the highest form of spectacle is when their favorite team wins. And that can only be possible if all players are healthy.

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