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Nobody has played in more NBA games than Robert Parish. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer from Centenary College took part in 1,611 games over 21 seasons. He was a nine-time NBA All-Star and a four-time champion, winning three of those rings with the Boston Celtics.

Parish admitted he nearly called it quits early in his professional career. His motivation was lacking until he received an offseason phone call.

Robert Parish got new life with the Boston Celtics

Robert Parish was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the eighth overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. He spent his first four seasons in the league with the Warriors, who had just won the championship in 1975. When Parish arrived in town, however, the Warriors struggled. He took plenty of blame.

“Golden State had won the championship in ’75, sweeping the Washington Bullets, and that team had been led by Rick Barry,” Parish once told Michael D. McClellan of Celtic Nation. “They reached the Western Conference Finals the next season. 

“Then they drafted me, and we were beat by the Lakers in the ’77 Western Conference Semifinals. The next three seasons we failed to make the playoffs, and there were a lot of disgruntled people — the fans, management, and players included. It wasn’t the best of times to be a Warrior.”

Then Parish got a life-changing phone call in the summer of 1980. The Celtics held the top pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and shipped it to the Warriors, along with the No. 13 pick. In return, the Celtics received Parish and the third pick. At No. 3, they selected Kevin McHale.

“It was like going from the outhouse to the penthouse in one phone call,” Parish admitted.

Coming to Boston motivated Parish


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Although he experienced some serious culture shock when he arrived in Boston, Parish took his basketball talent to a new level.

Parish no longer had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He didn’t have to be the main man on his team. The pressure of being a No. 1 pick was off. He joined Larry Bird, who was named Rookie of the Year the previous season, and McHale to eventually form what is arguably the best frontcourt in NBA history.

“I’d taken a lot of the blame for the Warriors’ problems, but there was plenty of blame to go around,” Parish told McClellan. “When I found out I’d been traded, I poured myself a stiff drink and celebrated.

“The trade gave me incentive, and I was motivated to play basketball again because I was finally surrounded by the talent that I played with in college. I mean that in relative terms, of course. In other words, in college we had a front line that was very dominant at that level, and we played very well together. Everyone understood their role, and they went out and did their job. It was the same with the three of us in Boston.”

In their first season together in Boston, Parish, Bird, and McHale won the first of their three championships together. Parish was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 and is a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.