The vicious clothesline that Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale laid on Los Angeles Lakers big man Kurt Rambis during the 1984 NBA Finals is one of the most notorious plays in NBA history. It's also a personal favorite play of Danny Ainge.
On the “Locked In” Celtics podcast, the current Celtics general manager and president of basketball operations recalled the lead-up to the foul.
“We get blown out in Game 1, we are so lucky to win Game 2…and then in Game 3 we get crushed again and it’s just a dunk fest…I remember Larry saying something to the media about how soft the teams is…But every single person that was watching that film was completely embarrassed and humiliated by our effort,” Ainge explained, per Mass Live.
After the 33-point Lakers rout, Ainge said McHale knew Boston had to impose more physicality. With that said, the then-Celtics guard challenged the slender power forward to take matters into his own hands.
“I said ‘Kevin, I get booed in every arena because I take hard fouls…why don’t you foul somebody hard one time?'” Ainge recalled.
Late in Game 4, with the Lakers up by seven and poised to take a 3-1 series lead, McHale caught a slashing Rambis across the neck.
The foul would earn a suspension today, but it was just a common foul at the time.
The clothesline shifted the tone of the game and the series — both of which the Celtics would come back to win.
“The fact that it was Kevin who took Rambis down…was even way more exciting than if Larry had done it…that was exciting for his teammates,” Danny Ainge shared. “That was an inspirational play for us to see Kevin, like ‘wow, that’s what we’re talking about. You talked the talk now you did it.' I loved that. That was one of my favorite Kevin plays ever.”
Different times, indeed.