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The Boston Celtics already secured Larry Bird. Now, they had to put some pieces around him. That’s when Red Auerbach went to work.

Courtesy of a previous trade with the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics held the top pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. They eyed Minnesota forward Kevin McHale but Purdue center Joe Barry Carroll was considered by many as the best player in the draft. Boston swung a deal with the Golden State Warriors that netted them the No. 3 pick (which they used to select McHale) and veteran center Robert Parish, a “throw-in,” according to former Celtics vice president and general manager Jan Volk.

Robert Parish and Kevin McHale won a championship in their first year with the Boston Celtics

Larry Bird won Rookie of the Year during the 1979-80 season after putting up 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He helped guide the Celtics to a 61-win season, 32 victories more than they had the previous year.

Auerbach then went to work before the 1980 NBA Draft, sending that No. 1 pick, along with the No. 13 selection, to the Warriors. In return, the Celtics received the third pick and Parish. Golden State selected Carroll, who had himself a nice NBA career, but it wasn’t Hall of Fame stuff like McHale and Parish provided in Boston.

McHale and Parish joined Bird to eventually form what many believe is the best frontcourt in NBA history. After coming up short in the 1980 postseason, the trio helped the Celtics win the first of their three titles of the decade. Boston defeated the Houston Rockets in six games in the 1981 NBA Finals.

With their newfound frontcourt, the Celtics reached the championship round in four straight seasons from 1984 to 1987. Boston also won titles in 1984 and 1986.

Former Celtics VP Jan Volk said Parish was a ‘throw-in’ in that 1980 trade


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Parish and McHale combined to play 27 seasons with the Celtics. McHale played all 13 of his NBA years in Boston. After four years with the Warriors, Parish played 14 seasons with the Celtics before having short stints with the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls.

Before joining the Celtics, Parish averaged 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds with the Warriors. The Celtics’ trade for Parish and McHale was franchise-altering, creating a dynasty in the ’80s.

Volk, the former Celtics vice president and general manager, said Parish was a “throw-in” in that trade.

“We really wanted McHale,” Volk said in a video recently posted by NBA History & Storytellers on CLNS. “We had the number one pick and the 14th pick (actually 13th), and we traded the number one pick to Golden State. In fairness, Robert was a throw-in.

“Red always recognized that big guys took a while to reach their potential. We were taking a chance.”

Auerbach’s patience paid off in the form of three more championships, with Parish, McHale, and Bird leading the way.