|Posted by shawn cassidy on July 1, 2011 at 3:27 AM|
By his seventh pro season, McHale had rehearsed and refined his low-post moves and had become one of the NBA's most dominant offensive forces, out-leaping, out-spinning and out-maneuvering defender after defender in his "torture chamber". McHale was never better than the 1986–1987 season, setting career highs in scoring (26.1) and rebounding (9.9). He also became the first player in NBA history to shoot sixty percent or better from the field (60.4%) and eighty percent or better from the free throw line (83.6%) in the same season. McHale was named to the All-NBA First Team, was named the NBA's best defensive player by the league's coaches, and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting behind Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird.
In nine games from February 23, 1987, through March 13, McHale played arguably the best stretch of basketball in his career. He averaged 30.7 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting a staggering 71.7 percent from the floor. During this stretch McHale scored his season-high in points, 38 versus the Pistons on March 1.
In a win at Chicago on March 27, McHale broke the navicular bone in his right foot. He ignored doctors' advice that the injury could be career-threatening and continued to play. In the playoffs a hobbled McHale averaged 39 minutes per game and connected on 58 percent of his shots as Boston once again won the Eastern Conference title. Boston swept the Bulls in the first round for the second straight year and survived two seven-game series with the Bucks and Pistons. A tired and hurting Celtics team could not defend its championship, losing to the Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
Off-season surgery on his injured right foot and ankle forced McHale to sit out the first month of the 1987–1988 season He scored 22 points in 22 minutes of play in his return to the Celtics on December 1, 1987, versus Atlanta.
Teammate Danny Ainge once called McHale "The Black Hole", joking that when the basketball was passed inside to McHale it disappeared because he rarely passed it back. But in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on April 3, 1988, McHale played the role of passer, distributing a career high 10 assists.
The Celtics won 57 games and made their fifth straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. McHale shot 60 percent from the field and averaged a career playoff-high 25.4 points per game as Boston defeated the Knicks in four games and the Hawks in a thrilling seven-game semi-final series. The Detroit Pistons were too strong for the Celtics this time around and defeated Boston in six games in the conference final. Head coach K. C. Jones retired at the end of the season, and the Celtics of the Bird-McHale-Parish era would never again advance past the conference semi-finals.
 Later careerInjuries limited Larry Bird to just six games in 1988–89 and the Celtics slipped to 42–40. New head coach Jimmy Rodgers coaxed the team into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's eighth and final seed behind the play of McHale and Parish and second-year guard Reggie Lewis.
The Celtics faced the Pistons in the playoffs for the third straight year. Detroit bottled up McHale this time around, holding him to 19 points per game and less than 50 percent shooting from the field. The Pistons easily swept the Celtics en route to their first NBA Championship.
The 1989–90 season marked the last time McHale was healthy enough to play in all 82 regular season games for the Celtics, but the season was one of discontent for Boston. Second-year point guard Brian Shaw left the team to play in Europe after a salary dispute, and Larry Bird—back from his injuries—was criticized by teammates, including McHale, for taking too many shots and trying to dominate games on his own.
Rodgers moved McHale back into his old "sixth man" role for the majority of the regular season; McHale's scoring dipped into the teens coming off the bench. With 23 games to play and Boston just nine games above .500, Rodgers decided to put McHale back into the starting lineup. McHale averaged 24.2 points and 9 rebounds down the stretch as the Celtics went 18–5 and finished just a game behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
McHale became the first player in twenty years to finish in the NBA's top ten in field goal percentage (seventh) and free throw percentage (fifth) in the same season.
Boston took the first two games of its first-round playoff series with the Knicks, including a record-setting 157–128 blowout in Game 2. In a shocking reversal the Knicks fought back and won the last three games of the series, bouncing the stunned Celtics from the playoffs. Head coach Jimmy Rodgers was fired following the playoff disappointment.
McHale contemplated retirement in the off-season after having another surgery performed on his balky right ankle, but he came back for the 1990–91 season. Boston paired young backcourt players Lewis, Dee Brown, Kevin Gamble and Brian Shaw—back from his year in Europe—with Bird, McHale and Parish and hired Chris Ford, a longtime assistant coach and member of the Celtics' 1981 championship team, to be its head coach.
The season got off to a promising start as Boston sprinted to a 29–5 record, but the Celtics were soon slowed by injuries to McHale (ankle) and Bird (back). McHale missed 14 regular season games and Bird 22, as the Celtics limped to a 27–21 record over the last three months of the season. Boston defeated the Indiana Pacers in five games in a hotly-contested first round playoff matchup, but for the third time in four years the Celtics were eliminated by Detroit, this time in a six-game semi-final series.
McHale played in a career-low 56 games and Bird played in just 45, as each suffered through an injury-plagued 1991–92 season. Boston struggled for most of the regular season but got hot as the playoffs approached, winning 15 of its last 16 games and finishing with 51 wins, the third-most in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics swept the Pacers in the first round, but were defeated in seven games in the conference semi-finals by the younger, quicker Cleveland Cavaliers. Bird retired from the NBA three months later.
The 1992–93 season was McHale's last in the NBA. McHale played in 71 games, but he was severely hampered by leg and back injuries. He averaged just 10.7 points per game and shot less than 50 percent from the floor (45.9%) for the only time in his career.
In the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets the Celtics were stunned by the loss of Lewis, their leading scorer. He collapsed on the court during Game 1 and was diagnosed with what eventually proved to be a fatal heart condition. McHale performed brilliantly in the series. He averaged 19.6 points per game and shot 58 percent from the field—including 30 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2—but Boston fell to the Hornets in four games.
McHale announced his retirement while talking with reporters at the scorer's table after the Game 4 loss in Charlotte.
 LegacyMcHale was a part of what some[who?] consider the league's best-ever frontline with small forward Larry Bird and center Robert Parish. The trio of Hall of Famers became known as the "Big Three" and led the Celtics to five NBA Finals appearances and three NBA Championships, in 1981, 1984 and 1986. For the first five years of his career McHale primarily came off the bench for the Celtics, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1984 and 1985.
Possessing a wide variety of offensive moves close to the basket the agile, long-armed McHale played in seven National Basketball Association All-Star Games between 1984 and 1991. McHale's finest season came in 1986–87 when he was named to the All-NBA First Team as a forward. He led the NBA in field goal percentage in 1987 and 1988, shooting 60.4 percent each season. Also a standout defensive player, McHale was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Team six times. He twice blocked nine shots in a game, the most ever by a Boston Celtics' player (blocked shots did not become an official NBA statistic until the 1974 season).
In 971 regular season games McHale averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds and in 169 post-season games averaged 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds.
At the end of the 2007–2008 season McHale ranked tenth in NBA history in career field goal percentage (55.4%), and he is among the Celtics' career leaders in several categories, including games played, points scored and rebounding.
McHale's number 32 jersey was retired by the Celtics on January 30, 1994, during a halftime ceremony at the Boston Garden
He was chosen one of the NBA's fifty greatest players and was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996.
McHale was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.