Even a Struggling Robert Parish Always Came Up Big When It Counted Most for the Boston Celtics
You have to go back more than 30 years to when the Boston Celtics had a great center. Al Horford, Boston’s current big man, is a forward playing center. Robert Williams III has the potential to become one but has a tough time staying on the court. Robert Parish is the last great Celtics center.
Kendrick Perkins was good, but not great. Kevin Garnett played some games at the 5, but he was more suited as a power forward. Granted, the game has changed, and traditional centers are becoming extinct, but Parish dominated in the 1980s, even when things seemed to be going the wrong way.
Robert Parish was Mr. Dependable for the Boston Celtics
The Celtics could use a Parish-type guy today. With Williams not expected to resume basketball activities for 8-to-12 weeks after arthroscopic surgery, Boston’s frontcourt is thin at best. The Celtics will be forced to use Luke Kornet, Mfiondu Kabengele, and the newly-signed Blake Griffin more with Williams on the shelf.
Parish was more than just a two-way star for Boston. He was dependable. Nobody in NBA history played more games than The Chief. Parish played 21 NBA seasons, 14 of them with the Celtics. During those 14 years in Boston, Parish never played fewer than 74 games in any one season.
Former teammate Kevin McHale likened Parish to a clock — just wind him up, and he’ll do his thing.
“I’d like to say something about Robert,” McHale said during an appearance on The Cedric Maxwell Podcast. “Robert might have been the most disciplined — not make mistakes, in the right spot every single time. He was amazing. That dude defensively just did his assignment all the time. Offensively, he was just so dependable.
“Robert was like a clock. You just wind him up and put him out there. He was going to get 18 to 22 points, 10 to 12 rebounds, and he wasn’t going to mess up. He wasn’t throwing the ball in the third row. Just an amazing, dependable guy. I was lucky to play with him for 12 years.”
During his time in Boston, Parish averaged 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds.
Parish came up big when needed most
It wasn’t always glory for Parish. He had his share of tough stretches, but when the team needed him most, that’s when he stepped up. That became evident during the 1984 NBA Finals against the rival Los Angeles Lakers.
Parish struggled in the five-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals. He had a clunker in Game 1 against the Lakers, who won 115-109. In the LA game, he had 13 points and seven rebounds. His counterpart, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, went for 32 points and eight boards.
Celtics coach K.C. Jones knew the Celtics had to go to Parish more, but the Lakers did whatever they could to shut him down.
“One of the changes we will have to make is to get Robert more shots,” said Jones after Game 1 per United Press International. ‘We’ve got to get him open more often. Now they’re collapsing on him when he is down low and are all over him like hanging vines.’
The Celtics followed through with the plan as the series went on. For the early part of the series, the Lakers dominated. The Celtics were lucky to head back to Boston tied 2-2, with both of their victories coming in overtime. It was down the stretch of that series, beginning with Game 4, when Parish came up big.
In Boston’s 129-125 win in Game 4, Parish finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds. That started a string of four straight double-doubles for the Boston center. In the clinching Game 7, Parish’s 16 rebounds were a game-high, and he outrebounded Abdul-Jabbar 16-6.