Born: 15 October 1965, Adelaide, South Australia
Height: 193 cm (6 ft 4 in)
Weight: 92 kg (203 lb)
Playing career: 1983–2000
Position: Shooting guard / Small forward
1983–1984 West Adelaide Bearcats
1985–1995 Adelaide 36ers
1996–1997 Brisbane Bullets
1998–1999 Canberra Cannons
2000 Wollongong Hawks
1990 FIBA Basketball World Cup – Argentina
1992 Summer Olympics – Spain
1994 FIBA Basketball World Cup – Canada
Career highlights and awards:
NBL Rookie of the Year (1985)
NBL champion (1986)
NBL Best Sixth Man (1996)
Adelaide 36ers Life Member
Mike McKay began his professional career in 1983 with the West Adelaide Bearcats. After the Bearcats pulled out of the NBL, McKay (aged 19), along with fellow Bearcat players Al Green, Peter Ali and Ray Wood, joined the Adelaide 36ers for the 1985 season.
In 1985 Adelaide’s only team in the NBL made it to its first Grand Final appearance in 1985 under head coach Ken Cole. The 36ers lost the Grand Final to the Brisbane Bullets 95–120 at the Sleeman Sports Centre in Brisbane, but McKay would go on to win the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award, becoming the first 36ers player ever to do so. McKay played all 28 games in 1985, averaging 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He won the Rookie of the Year award despite already having played 38 games for West Adelaide in 1983 and 1984.
Coached by Ken Cole, the 36ers would win their first NBL championship in 1986. After compiling a 24–2 record during the regular season, including going 13–0 at their home court, the Apollo Stadium (the first NBL side to go through a regular season unbeaten at home), the 36ers would reverse the 1985 GF result with a three-game series win over the Bullets. Game 2 of the series saw Adelaide’s only defeat of the season at home with the Bullets pulling off an upset 104–83 win. McKay, who suffered a serious knee injury during the year and was forced to miss some 10 weeks, would go on to win his first (and only) NBL Championship after the 36ers defeated the Bullets 113–91 in Game 3 of the series at Apollo in front of a full house of some 3,000 fans, among them the then Premier of South Australia, John Bannon.
Early on, McKay earned the nickname “Mad Max” for sometimes not being able to control his emotions on the basketball court (he was labelled a ‘hot head’ by some commentators, most notably by Brisbane based television commentator Gary Fleet after his clashes with Leroy Loggins during the 1986 Grand Final series, though Fleet was also quick to give his admiration for McKay’s skill as a player). Often his lack of control was to the detriment of his performance early in his career.
Following the championship win, coach Ken Cole was sacked by the 36ers for off court drama’s which had taken place during the 1986 season, and he was replaced by American Gary Fox. Early in the 1987 season while attempting a bonding session for the players, Fox put the 1986 Championship trophy in the centre of the court at Apollo Stadium and had the players gather around it in a group hug while telling them that the trophy was what the other NBL teams were trying to take from them. McKay, thinking it was all too serious, started doing the hokey pokey. While it broke the tension and brought laughter from his teammates who also thought it was a bit too serious, his actions failed to impress Fox.
McKay would continue to be a star performer for the 36ers until the end of the 1995 NBL season, playing in losing semi-finals in 1987 (Perth Wildcats), 1988 (Canberra Cannons), 1989 (Perth) (all under Fox) and 1995 (Perth), as well as the losing 1994 GF Series against the North Melbourne Giants (under the coaching of Mike Dunlap). He joined the Brisbane Bullets in 1996 where he would win the NBL’s inaugural Best Sixth Man award in his first year away from Adelaide. He played two seasons with the Bullets before moving on to two years with the Canberra Cannons (1998–99). After the 1999–2000 NBL season with the Wollongong Hawks, McKay retired from the NBL having played 448 games and averaging 12.7 points during his career.