Basketball

Q&A: Hall of famer Robert Parish on 21 NBA seasons

The former Boston Celtics big man was in Halifax this weekend. He talks life after basketball, the Golden State Warriors, and not being scared of Charles Oakley.

Hall of fame Robert Parish talks to a crowd at Saint Mary's University on Saturday
Hall of famer Robert Parish talks to a crowd at Saint Mary’s University on Saturday.   Alexander Quon

The NBA All-Star Challenge passed through Halifax on Saturday with local ballers coming out to participate in the skills challenge, three-point contest and dunk competition.

The participants were treated to some special guests at the event: the Sacramento Kings’ dancers, Kings’ mascot Slamson and NBA hall of famer Robert Parish.

Standing seven feet tall, Parish played 21 seasons in the league from 1976 to 1997 and broke the record for most games ever played.

He won four NBA championships in his career with the Chicago Bulls and, most notably, the Boston Celtics. Parish was a part of the Celtics frontcourt with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale when they won three NBA championships in the ‘80s.

Parish talked with The Signal about life after basketball, the modern NBA and shared some stories from his days with the Celtics.

Dillon White: You played 21 seasons in the NBA. When you retired, how hard was it to adjust to not having to go through the grind?

Robert Parish: I got playing out of my system. So I was ready to relax and enjoy retirement. It was an easy transition for me.

DW: Were you ever itching to return to basketball afterward?

RP: Well, there was a stretch a couple of years after I retired that I tried to get back into the game, but no opportunity really presented itself. But I’m at peace with it now.

DW: What is one thing that you miss about being in the league?

RP: My comradery with my teammates. I think I miss them more than anything else. Just hanging out with the fellas, you know, talking trash, playing dominoes, playing cards – I miss that.

DW: What was the largest amount of money that changed hands in one of those card games?

RP: I think probably the most I seen at one time was $30,000.

DW: What team were you playing for then?

RP: The Celtics.

DW: What would you say was the greatest team you ever played for in your career?

RP: I know I’m a little biased, but I’d have to say the ‘86/‘87 team with the Celtics. The Chicago Bulls with that ‘96/’97 team would be a close second.

DW: The Golden State Warriors are on pace to make history this season. Where do you think they’d stack up with the greatest teams you’ve ever seen?

RP: Well, they’re definitely in the same conversation. I’m not a big fan of comparison because I think each era [is different]. The Warriors are great in this era. They’re one of the best teams ever for this era just like the Celtics and Lakers were back in our time.

DW: Do you think the game has changed for the better now with the different style of play?

RP: From a physicality standpoint I think it’s better because first of all, you’re eliminating a lot of the altercations that went on when they had the hand-checking and the bumping and grinding impeding players’ progress when they wanted to make a move. So they’ve definitely cleaned it up in that aspect.

DW: Were there any teammates over the course of your career who you’d never mess with or wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing to?

RP: I didn’t have one. Didn’t have a teammate like that because we were all good citizens. We all got along so I don’t have a guy. Besides, the only person that ever made me nervous was my father.

DW: What about playing against Charles Oakley?

RP: No, I was never afraid to see him. It was a challenge playing against Oakley but I don’t think I was in awe of him.

DW: Any good Larry Bird stories?

RP: Well Larry is one of the biggest trash talkers I have ever been associated with. I remember we were playing the Phoenix Suns back when we were rolling in our heyday. Tom Chambers was guarding Larry and we were down by one point and Larry pointed to an area on the floor and told him that’s where he was going to take the shot. Larry dribbled to that spot, took a three-pointer and made it. And he told Chambers afterwards: “That’s why I’m one of the best in business.”