What happened between Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis? Revisiting their altercation during 1984 NBA Finals

What happened between Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis in 1984 NBA Finals?
What happened between Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis in 1984 NBA Finals?

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers had many battles in the NBA. The historic league rivals fought for titles, including a legendary run against each other in the 80’s.

One of the most memorable moments came in the 1984 NBA Finals. Celtics big man Kevin McHale clotheslined Lakers forward Kurt Rambis in a physical play at the rim. Let’s dive into the wild play.

It was Game 4 of the Finals. The Celtics won it 129-125 in overtime in LA. Later, Boston won the series in Game 7, which is known as one of the most famous Finals in history. Nine Hall of Famers were involved in the series.


It was a hard foul by McHale on Rambis. It almost looked like McHale attempted to put Rambis in a headlock. The Laker was driving for a layup on a fastbreak, and the Celtics power forward drilled him with a clothesline, sending the Lakers star to the ground, falling on his back.

Rambis somehow avoided injury on the play. He got up and attempted to go after McHale in anger. His teammate pushed him away, and fell back to the floor. A fight almost broke out between the two teams. However, refs and players were able to separate their hotheaded teammates.

Celtics legend Larry Bird was the first to help Rambis off the floor and calm him down. The players stood around each other on the floor and yelled at the refs for a while, but no punches were thrown, and the tension was dissolved.

Rambis recounted the event while appearing on the “Byron Scott Podcast” in 2021. The show’s host is Byron Scott, a former LA Laker who witnessed that famous incident.

Rambis recalled that the funniest part was the fight’s aftermath, as McHale escaped without severe punishment for the hard foul.

"The funny thing about that whole episode is that I just go to the free-throw line, shoot my two free-throws. No replay, no ejections, no fines, no nothing. Just go back and play,” Rambis said.

In the current scenario, it would have been an easy flagrant 2 foul, and McHale would have likely been ejected. The flagrant foul was introduced in 1990.

Rambis does not complain about the changes in the game. He stated that changes always happen in basketball, and it should be appreciated.

"The game is always evolving and changing,” Rambis said. “You gotta respect the fact that the game does change. And if you probably look at the players who played in the 50s, they would call us wimps. Because there were all-out brawls then."

Is NBA Hall of Famer Kurt Rambis working for the LA Lakers?

Kurt Rambis is currently a senior advisor for the LA Lakers. He works in the front office and acts as a consultant for player and team management.

He has a long history with the Lakers, as he played from 1981-88 and in the 1993-94 season. He won four championships with the team.

Rambis was the head coach of the team in 1999. He also had multiple stints as an assistant coach.

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Edited by Ribin Peter