Robert Parish was a homebody growing up. The Boston Celtics legend lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, and attended Centenary College in the same city. He didn’t leave home until the Golden State Warriors selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft.
During a Wednesday interview with Steiny & Guru on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, Parish reflected on his days as a young player with the Warriors and how he felt seeing the Bay Area for the first time.
Parish also discussed playing in Boston, which has a reputation of being a racist city. He said he never endured any problems with racism when he played for the Celtics. Parish did recall one experience of racism when he was in Boston as a rookie with the Warriors.
Robert Parish shined for both the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics
Parish played his college basketball at little-known Centenary College. Not only was Centenary a small school, but it was placed on probation during the Parish years for violations regarding SAT/ACT scores. While the school did well on the court, it received very little publicity.
The Warriors took notice, though, and grabbed the 7-foot-1 center early in the first round. He played four seasons with the Warriors and came into his own in the last two years. During the 1978-79 season, Parish averaged 17.2 points and 12.1 rebounds. The following season, he went for 17.0 points and 10.9 boards.
It was after that fourth season when the Celtics and Warriors pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade. Boston held the first pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. The Celtics moved that pick, along with the 13th selection, for Parish and Golden State’s No. 3 pick. With that third pick, the Celtics selected Kevin McHale.
Parish and McHale paired with Larry Bird to eventually give the Celtics arguably the best frontcourt in NBA history. In his first year with Boston, Parish made the first of seven straight All-Star selections. He appeared in nine NBA All-Star Games as a member of the Celtics.
For his Boston career, Parish averaged 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He won three championships with the Celtics and added a fourth later with the Chicago Bulls. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Parish explained the culture shock he faced with the Warriors and the Celtics
During his appearance on Steiny & Guru, Parish touched on a variety of topics from his illustrious NBA career. He was asked if he experienced culture shock when he came to the Bay Area after spending most of his time in Shreveport.
“Now, that’s an understatement,” Parish said. “It was different in this context. “I went to the gay parade in San Francisco. You talk about an awakening. Oh, my goodness, some of the things that I saw.
“I think everybody should experience it. Go to the gay parade to experience it because I think it’s something we all should see because that would help us be more accepting and tolerant of the gay/lesbian/transgender community. I think you should understand people that are different from you.”
Parish was also asked about his time in Boston. The topic of racism came up, and the hosts wanted to know if he ever had to deal with that in the city.
“Before I became a Celtic, I did,” Parish said. “My rookie year with the Warriors. “Me and some of my teammates were walking back to the hotel from dinner, from the restaurant. Two carloads of teenagers rode by twice and used the N-word. Told us to go back to California. Not only once, but they rode by again and did the same gesture, which I always felt like was ugly behavior to use that type of language at anyone.
“Once I got there and got comfortable to know the city, the perception is far worse than the reality.”
Parish grew up quickly when he left his hometown. He experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly as he branched out. The experiences outside of Shreveport made him more well-rounded as a person. He understood more. Not only did he adapt to life on the basketball court, but he also educated himself off it.