A 6’11 journeyman (to say the least), Kite is best memorialized among Bostonians for his playoff performances. Regarded as one of the least athletic players of all time, Kite possessed a terrible shot and a gnarly beard to go along with his huge wingspan. An owner of two championship rings from 1984 and 1986, Kite’s best moments came in the 1987 Finals series versus LA. In game 3 of that championship series, the third-string center Kite was tasked with guarding the highest scoring player in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And guard him he did!
With typical backup center Bill Walton struggling through a rough series, coach K.C. Jones looked to the rarely used Kite to relieve Hall of Famer Robert Parish. In his 22 minutes of playing time that game, Kite forced Kareem into uncomfortable shots, missing a pair of sky-hooks and a turnaround jumper. Kite was 15 years younger than Abdul-Jabbar and his style of play proved it, running the floor well and crashing the boards like a benchwarmer tasting his first playoff action. But the biggest play of the game (and maybe of his career) came in the second half. His inspired play in the first earned him a second half start and Kite did not disappoint. Just when it looked like Kite was about wind up on another Showtime highlight reel, he shocked the Garden with a stuff on Magic Johnson. Swooping in from out of nowhere, Kite rejected the legend and sent the Garden into pandemonium.
His nine spirited rebounds and the block on Johnson were all the Celtics needed to steal momentum and win the game. His style of play earned him five fouls in his just 22 minutes, another impressive feat if you ask me. He was unable to score on any of his three field goal attempts, but he got the C’s the win and that’s all that mattered. In my opinion, no other player has played a more clutch 22 minutes of scoreless basketball in Finals history.
Kite retired in 1996 after a thirteen year career with nine teams. His best season came in 1990-1991 when he started all 82 games for the Orlando Magic, averaging career highs with 4.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Coincidentally (or not) the Magic would go on to magically (pun intended) win the lottery two seasons later and draft Shaquille O’Neal, a slight upgrade over Kite. An amazingly cool fact to me is that Kite somehow still managed to start a game during Shaq’s rookie year; an obvious testament to his copious amounts of success (sarcasm sarcasm SARCASM). Kite had a penchant for playing with winners though, as his list of star teammates include Bird, Mchale, Parish, O’Neal, Pervis Ellison, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing.
Today, Kite can be found living in Orlando with his ten adopted children and in the hearts of diehard Celtics fans who will forever remember that iconic game three.