Back in the day, guarding Kevin McHale in the low post was correctly referred to as being in The Torture Chamber. This was primarly due to McHale's towering height (6'11"), precise footwork, and pinpoint shooting ability. It also helped that McHale was assembled at the Freaky Body Parts Depot. He had the arms of a 15-foot man, and they either didn't have any joints, or the joints swiveled in every conceivable direction. Seriously, watch this video and take note of how his arms twist and bend in ways that no human limb ever should. It's a little creepy. Okay, a lot creepy.


That is how I want to remember McHale. Not as the lousy GM who couldn't build a team around Kevin Garnett and then traded K.G. to his old team for pennies on the dollar, but as a fierce, talented competitor who was the absolute and undisputed master of inside scoring. The dude has forgotten more low post moves than most guys in today's NBA will ever know. He was also a fantastic defender -- three times All-Defensive First Team, three times All-Defensive Second Team -- who perfected the art of the "soft blocked shot" (where you lightly tap it to yourself or a nearby teammate).

One last note on McHale. Everybody talks about that mythical 50/40/90 benchmark, where a player shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 from three, and 90 from the line. There are only five or six guys who have ever done that. Well, there's only one person in NBA history who has ever shot 60 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. It was McHale, and he did it twice (in '87 and '88).

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21 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Didn't Bill Russell perfect the "soft blocked shot"?

Blogger Chris said...
Low post scoring/footwork is a dieing art. Now that Rasheed has given it up to shoot 3s, Timmy D is all we have left.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
anonymous -- I had a feeling somebody might bring that up. Russell was also a master of the soft block. But sometimes he also made people eat the ball. Sometimes he wouldn't block it on purpose to psyche his opponent. He had a full shot-blocking arsenal that he used variably depending on the situation.

McHale just didn't have a lot of arm strenth. What he did have was long arms and an uncanny sense of timing. He used the soft block almost exclusively. I know it's hard to argue he did it any better than Russell, but Russell had the natural athelticism to go after his blocks; he could leap high into the air and snatch them down. McHale, upon blocking a shot, was pretty much stuck in one place, so he had to make sure the ball went directly into his hands or to a teammate.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
chris -- Amen, brutha.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
maybe the bulls should get him, how much worse could he be than joe smith?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
First comment I've posted here - I'll keep it anon, but this is the best basketball blog ever. First thing I've done for months when coming into work is sit down and read some basketbawful.

Now, maybe it's a lack of sleep from the weekend, maybe it's the inner 5th grader in me being ridiculously childish, but that move he pulls at 1:49 in the video just has me in stiches. Heheheheheheh.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
60%-80%.....dave twardzik did it too in 1976

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Damn. Twardzik did do it. Although it was 1976-77.

But I have it on good authority that Dave didn't have any good post moves. He was only 6'1", but wasn't that the averge height for centers back then?

Blogger bob said...
McHale and Olajuwon were the greatest low-post players ever. I never watched enough footage of them to pick it out carefully, but the stuff I did watch was amazing.

McHale's up-and-under was unstoppable. The torture chamber it was. Pity his GM ability ranked at borderline despicable.

Anonymous Sun Devil said...
Good post; sometimes it gets easy to forget that McHale was an absolute beast in the paint.

Also: Something I took a screenshot awhile ago. It's completely unrelated

http://bp2.blogger.com/_s_kfMyJLmVc/RiRneXqHPZI/AAAAAAAAAAM/DU91kRkvHGU/s1600-h/Brent+Barry.JPG

Anonymous Anonymous said...
anyone know what was going on between McHale, Isiah and Lamebeer?

Blogger kellydwyer said...
McHale was telling Isiah to kick some Laker ass in the Finals.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
check out this basketbawful gear.

http://www.jumpusa.com/bandit.html

Blogger john marzan said...
I'm a huge mchale fan, and i'd rate him the third best PF of all time--behind duncan and barkley. having seen both mchale and karl malone in their primes, i can safely say that mchale in his prime would have kicked the mailman's butt (in his prime too). mchale can guard malone, but not vice versa. the only thing great about malone was his longevity and his productivity playing alongside a great assist man like john stockton.

btw basketbawful, if you were an NBA manager, who would you pick to build your team around? Dirk Nowitzki, or Kevin Mchale?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
mchale was insane,look at those moves,man,you don't see them in today's games anymore,and the BG music is so great,u can't go wrong with SRV...BTW,keep up good works.i have to admit that i'm a big fan of your blog..

Anonymous 80's NBA said...
Me and a dude at work were talking about basketball and McHale today at work.

McHale was also one of the greatest funny guys in the league. I remember right before he retired someone asked him about Bird's 2 hour retirement ceremony in Boston Garden and what he thought they would do for his retirement. McHale said they'd probably hold his retirement celebration during a 20-second time out.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
john -- See today's post for my answer on Dirk or Kevin.

anonymous -- Thanks, dude. Glad you enjoy yourself around these parts.

80's nba -- That was a classic McHalism; I remember reading it in The Big Three, or maybe it was The Best Ever. And that's what I enjoyed most about McHale: He loved basketball, and he loved life. He would have torn your heart out to win, but he would have bought you a beer after the game to make up for it. Funny guy. And talented.

Blogger john marzan said...
I like the answer. Nice post, Basketb.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Quick note on Twardzik: if I remember correctly (from the book "Pride of Portland") Twardzik did do a 60% 80%, but he didn't reach the shot minimum to be counted as a league leader. He wasn't to far off, and it was still impressive, coming from a guard and all.

-Sean

Anonymous starang said...
Wow, I'm glad I wasn't old enough to enjoy basketball back then, because I would have stopped enjoying after the 100th or so up and under. I think I fell asleep somewhere after the fifth or sixth up and under move. Great move, but if you highlite film is is 50% up and unders, 25% jumpshots, and 25% uncontested layups because bird made a good pass...something is wrong.

Don't get me wrong, McHale was as great player in his day...I've read enough history books to know that. But someone needs to assemble a better collection of McHale plays. This one is garbage.

Anonymous KHayes666 said...
Starang, that's the point really. He may do the same move over and over but obviously NO ONE COULD STOP HIM.

He was that dominating, if nobody can block a certain move then why change?

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