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The story behind Kevin McHale's unusual nickname 'The Black Hole'

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NBA players have some of the best nicknames you can think of, and throughout NBA history, there were some pretty memorable ones. Boston Celtics legend Kevin McHale was also called the Black Hole, and the story behind how that came to happen was based on his unique way of playing the game.

McHale was called the Black Hole by his teammates

Kevin McHale remains one of the most underrated big men of all time when you consider his accomplishments with the Boston Celtics. Lengthy and skilled McHale was a vital member of a Celtics dynasty in the ’80s that won 3 NBA championships in five finals. His presence in the post on both ends of the floor was outstanding, but his offensive repertoire especially stood out.

He was skillful and had such an all-around game in the post that made him almost unstoppable for the opposing players. McHale’s high efficiency made under the rim was also a part of his mindset of being in constant attack mode, which got him the infamous nickname ‘The black hole’ among his teammates. It was coined by none other than Danny Ainge, who jokingly said that when you give McHale the ball in the post, you can’t expect to get it back.

I called Kevin the black hole. Once it goes in, it never comes back out.

Danny Ainge, via Boston Celtics

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One of the best players in the post

His longtime teammate and partner in the post, Robert Parish, admired McHale’s ability to shoot at a high percentage, and everyone on the Celtics knew he was hesitant to give the ball back if he was in a position to score.

One of the things about Kevin and why he is shooting at such a high percentage is that no one gives him a lot of lip service for taking those shots cause he put a lot of them in. But once you do it, don’t expect it back at all.

Robert Parish, via Boston Celtics

Celtics point guard Dennis Johnson learned how to play with McHale because the coaches would often tell him to cut after a made pass to McHale because everyone knew he wouldn’t give it back.

You stand there for a while just hoping, and you hear the coaches yell 'cut Dennis, cut Dennis because you are not going to get it back.

Dennis Johnson, via Boston Celtics

McHale had multiple seasons where he averaged over 20 points per game, shooting at a high percentage, and his moves in the post were a thing of beauty. You could perhaps argue he was somewhat selfish, but his teammates looked at it differently. They knew they were not getting the ball back but understood McHale could score a bucket on anybody guarding him in the post. Even though great post moves are a lost art in today’s NBA, every big man could learn a thing or two by watching McHale operate down low because it’s a thing of beauty and rare skill in the league today.


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