Basketball legend Kevin McHale has been at the center of a plethora of memorable television moments, most of them coming as a centerpiece of the Boston Celtics during a career that earned him honors as one the top 50 players in the history of the National Basketball Association.
Also numbering among his greatest small-screen appearances: a hysterical pair of guest stints on the NBC comedy Cheers in 1990 and 1991.
So now, as an on-air analyst for NBA TV and TNT, McHale knows there's a high bar set for him to be remembered in the TV world for anything else. "I'm waiting for the best moment; it better be still to come," he says with a laugh.
That will be nearly impossible, given that McHale's on-court pedigree is virtually unrivaled. He starred at the University of Minnesota from 1976- 1980, and was named the best player in its history in 1995. He went on to play 13 seasons with the Celtics, racking up three NBA titles. An NBA Hall of Famer, he amassed several personal accolades, including seven All-Star appearances and two Sixth Man of the Year awards.
Following his playing career, the Minnesota native joined up with his hometown NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in 1993. For the next 18 years, he would have several high-profile roles with the franchise, including head coach (twice) and head of basketball operations from 1995-2009.
But when he first joined the team, it was as a TV color analyst, so he came into his latest gig with experience, in addition to his lifetime in the game at the highest level.
"Kevin's love for the game is infectious, and with that, he combines the ultimate in credibility with dialogue that all fans and viewers appreciate," says Jeff Behnke, senior VP and executive producer at Turner Sports.
While hoops is still hoops, McHale notices a different game behind the camera. "You can do a lot more things technically, a lot more things that are available to the color guy to be able to try and show what's happening. It's changed a great deal," he says. "All that tech stuff helps in the middle of the season, but when you get to the playoffs, you really don't need all that."
Having been in and around the game for so long, McHale brings a unique perspective to his work and his opinion of the NBA today. For one, he is concerned that too many kids are coming out of college too early.
"If they stayed in college, they would understand leadership more," he says. "I understand the money aspect, but I look at so many guys who have come in too early. For every [LeBron James, who skipped college], I can give you 10 examples of kids that haven't worked out."
And speaking of James, the NBA's latest Ã¼ber-star is the subject of endless speculation as to whether he will remain in Cleveland with the Cavaliers, or jump elsewhere in free agency to brighter lights and a bigger city like New York. McHale wants it to be the former.
"I hope he stays in Cleveland," McHale says frankly. "I think it would be great for the league. It's not like he's saying, â€˜I can't get a commercial, no one knows who I am.' He's not going to become any more popular. The world's gotten smaller."
As for the Cavs, McHale is picking them to win the NBA title this year, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.
And with the playoffs in full swing, he says he is having a blast. "Broadcasting is pure fun," he says. "You're just having a good time, and there's a little bit of a team atmosphere. It's my first time in 30 years not being affiliated with a team, so I'm glad I did it."
Still, McHale isn't closing the door on a return to an NBA franchise. "It would have to be the right situation," he says. "My time with the Turner family has been great. But you never say never; you always look around and see what is out there."
E-mail comments to bgrossman@ nbmedia.com, and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman
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