The Mchale-Ainge-Bird Dynamic


Jackie Mac

During the time I covered Ainge in the '80s, I always saw him as a little brother to Bird and McHale. (He was two years younger than the former and 15 months younger than the latter.) In effect, he took on the same position he held in his own family under Doug (four years older) and Dave (three years older). McHale could goof off with the best of them—from time to time he would sneak a snack on the bench—but it was Ainge who acted as if he were 10, showing up at practice wearing goofy headbands and adhesive-taped names on his jersey. Lamar Mundane, a fictional playground legend who was the subject of a Reebok commercial at the time, was one of Ainge's favorites. Bird and McHale ragged him for his boyish enthusiasm and I-got-screwed whining during games. Only when Bill Walton came to the Celtics in 1985, giving Bird and McHale a new target, did Ainge slither off the hook.

Still, Ainge was the player most plugged into the complex Bird-McHale dynamic. "Larry would always come to me and say, 'Hey, go tell Kevin this,' and Kevin would come to me and say, 'Go tell Larry that.' They were such great players, but sometimes they didn't know how to talk to each other and how to yell at each other. But they knew how to yell at me."

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