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It was as if the Boston Celtics weren’t playing fair. In 1980, they pulled off one of the biggest trades in franchise history. Boston got together with the Golden State Warriors and came away with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in a move that set them up nicely for the future.

The trade paved the way for three NBA championships and a Boston dynasty. That may never have happened if Parish followed through with his plan to call it a career during his time with the Warriors.

Robert Parish won a title in his first year with the Boston Celtics

Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics looks to pass the ball over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA game circa 1987 at the Boston Garden. |Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

To put it mildly, the Boston Celtics fleeced the Golden State Warriors. Just before the 1980 NBA Draft, the Celtics swung the deal. Boston held the No. 1 pick and traded it, along with the 13th overall pick, to the Warriors. In return, Boston receiver Parish, a veteran center, and the third pick. With that third pick, the Celtics selected McHale.

Boston paired the duo with a young star named Larry Bird. Bird helped the Celtics win 61 games in his first season, boosting Boston’s victory total up from 29 the previous season. He was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.

In their first season together, Bird, Parish, and McHale helped Boston to a 62-20 season. Bird and Parish were starters, while McHale came off the bench. The Celtics outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games during an intense Eastern Conference Finals. Boston then defeated the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals.

Parish and the Celtics also won championships in 1984 and 1986. They knocked off the rival Los Angeles Lakers in an epic 1984 NBA Finals before downing the Rockets again in 1986.

Parish spent 14 of his 21 NBA seasons with the Celtics. During that stretch, he averaged 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He made all nine of his All-Star appearances as a member of the Celtics. Parish was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Parish nearly called it quits with the Warriors

Parish played four seasons with the Warriors, averaging 14.5 points and 9.1 rebounds. The team, however, didn’t have a whole lot of success. As the eighth overall pick in 1976, Parish admitted the pressure got to him, and he considered calling it quits before the trade to Boston.

“The team was going through a transition,” Parish once told Michael D. McClellan of Celtic Nation. “Golden State had won the championship in ’75, sweeping the Washington Bullets, and that team had been led by Rick Barry. 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. I considered cutting my career short before the trade because I was being blamed for the Warriors’ demise. 

“I understood that I was the team’s top pick and that a lot of pressure comes along with that.  But basketball isn’t an individual sport. I just felt like the Warriors at that time were an assembly of misfit pieces. Guys were thinking about their own agendas as opposed to that of the team.”

It certainly worked out for Parish and the Celtics that he never followed through with his plan.