Robert Parish teamed with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to form one of the greatest front lines in NBA history and , in spite of the new crop of threesomes who have popped up in the NBA recently, including the Celtics own new "big three", Bird, Parish and McHale will always be THE Big Three.
Robert Parish started his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were the NBA Champions the season before Parish joined the team. In Parish's rookie year, the Warriors had begun to decline and they finished third in their division. Parish was labeled a mal-content and an under achiever. But, Red Auerbach saw something in Parish, and knowing that a team needs a strong center to win a championship, he approached the Warriors about a trade for the big guy.
The Celtics owned the first pick in the 1980 draft and the Warriors had their eyes on a center that they felt would be a better fit than the under achieving Parish. In a trade prior to the draft, considered by many to be one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, Red Auerbach dealt the Celtics top pick and an additional first-round pick to the Warriors for Parish and the Warriors' first-round pick, which was the third overall. That third pick became Kevin McHale, the 3rd member of the Big Three. The Warriors selected Joe Barry Carroll with the first pick. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Parish's stoic countenance and even temperament earned him Parish, the nickname "Chief" by Celtics teammate Cedric Maxwell after the character from the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In his 14-years with the Celtics the team went to the playoffs 13 times, won nine Atlantic Division titles, reached the NBA Finals five times and won Banners 14, 15, and 16. Parish was named an All-Star nine times and finished among the top 10 in the league in field goal percentage for six consecutive seasons. He averaged 10 rebounds or more in eight of his 14 seasons and averaged more than 15 points in 9 of those seasons.
But Parish didn't retire a Celtic, as the other two of the Big Three did. In 1994, he signed as a free agent with the Charlotte Hornets. In two seasons with the Hornets, he provided veteran leadership to a young team on the rise. passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the league's all-time leader in games played late In the 1995-96 season he passed Kareem Abdul Jabbar to become the NBA's all time leader in games played. His 1,611 games played over 21 seasons are still unmatched today. Before the 1996 season he signed with Chicago as a free agent and won his 4th championship ring when the Bulls won 69 games and the championship.
Parish, announced his retirement at age 43 following the 1996-97 season and after playing 21seasons in the league. When he retired, Parish ranked 13th in the NBA in scoring with 23,334 points, sixth in rebounds with 14,715, sixth in blocked shots with 2,361 and eighth in field goals made with 9,614.
Bill Walton, Parish's back up on the 1986 Championship team had this to say about him, "He's probably the best medium-range shooting big man in the history of the game."
To honor his place in Celtics history, the team retired Parish's number 00 in 1998 at halftime of a Celtics-Pacers game to allow Larry Bird, who was the head coach of the Pacers at the time, to participate in the ceremony. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 1996, he was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
Today, Parish continues to work with the Celtics as a team consultant. Along with Celtics big man coach Clifford Ray, Parish runs a camp for NBA big men every off season and he serves as a mentor for the Celtics current crop of big men.
Thank you, Chief, for the memories and we wish you a happy 57th birthday.