Bird and McHale are one of the most iconic duos in NBA history. On the court, they were a match made in heaven. Both unstoppable on offense, one of the best one-two punches ever. But, McHale never got as much praise as Larry Bird did. Jackie MacMullan has a theory why.
In a recent episode of the Michael Jordan Memoirs by Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective, legendary sportswriter Jackie MacMullan reflected on one key difference between Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.
According to Jackie, Bird’s approach to the game was much more ruthless in comparison to McHale’s as she explained:
“The reason no one ever thought about McHale in the same vein as Bird was [because] if Bird had a guy down and he was on the ground, Bird would look at him, step on his larynx, and crush him. McHale would look down and say: ‘Yeah, you’ve had enough and help him up.”Jackie Mac, Michael Jordan Memories
The legendary duo dominated 80s’ basketball with their Boston Celtics and won 3 titles in total. (1981, 1984, 1986) The Celtics of that era were an absolute powerhouse that was a force to be reckoned with.
The C’s played tough, team-oriented basketball and never shied away from physical play. Their squad was led by one of the greatest scorers of all time in Bird and was supported by a hall of fame cast of Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Kevin McHale.
It is important to acknowledge how great these players were and what made them so special at the time. Each player in the 80s’ Celtics had a unique role that perfectly complimented other pieces of their team, so while guys like Parish and Johnson did a lot of the dirty work, guys like Bird and McHale did what they do best and was getting buckets.
But as Jackie Mac stated, the real difference between these two NBA greats was the fact that Larry Bird, just like MJ, Kobe, and Magic, was an ice-cold killer who had no remorse for his adversaries on the basketball court.
This is most likely the reason why the two grew apart during their tenure in Boston. McHale became a bit more laid back, had other passions in life. For Bird, it was basketball all day, every day.