Robert Parish is an all-time great who won four championships in his NBA career, and undeniably the unsung hero of the Celtics Big 3 from that era. His career enjoyed a turnaround after getting traded to the Boston Celtics from the Golden State Warriors. That deal proved to be magic for the Celtics as it kickstarted dominance that would last for several years.
When the Boston Celtics traded for Robert Parish, management knew what he could bring to the table. Boston gave up its number one pick in 1980 to get Parish from the Warriors. The Celtics also nabbed Kevin McHale with the 3rd pick, thus creating their Big 3. The McHale-Parish tandem would become one of the most fearsome frontcourts in the history of the game - they combined 16 All-Star appearances and won three titles together.
Red Auerbach and coach Bill Fitch had a vision on how to use Parish. But there were many misconceptions about The Chief amongst fans and media. In an interview with Jack Edwards of ESPN Sportscenter, Parish shared what people thought wrong about him:
“When I came here I had a reputation of not caring and being lackadaisical. Maybe it's my demeanor you know like I said I'm not emotional I don't have a lot of expressions you know in my face so maybe that's a reason why people are saying that I’m lackadaisical.”
Robert Parish, ESPN
Sometimes, the best players know what they can do on the court and let their game do the talking. The Celtics knew how to utilize Robert, and they achieved great things on the court together. The team was loaded at that time, but Parish shared what made it work.
Parish had to set his ego aside for Boston to win
Parish knows not everyone knew him, and not a lot would include him in their all-time greats at the center position. He had to sacrifice his ego for the team to win. The Chief let McHale and Larry Bird get all the spotlight because they were more popular. He quietly did his role, played within the system, and won titles. Not many centers could say they were a four-time champion who played alongside Bird and McHale. Plus, he’s a 9-time All-Star to boot.
Parish won his fourth title at the end of his career with the '96/'97 Chicago Bulls. His stint in Chicago is most famous for being the only player Michael Jordan had to back down to.
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ At that point, he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that, he didn’t bother me.”
Robert Parish, ESPN
The Cheif was the ultimate team-first guy. He sacrificed stats and attention in Boston for the good of the team, but that doesn't mean he was a pushover. That's what the young stars in modern NBA misunderstand. They tend to focus more on individual games rather than sacrificing minutes and numbers for the team to win. You can average single digits and still have the respect of your peers and the NBA community - just play the game the right way.