Robert Parish

Robert Parish (born August 30, 1953) is an American retired basketball center who played 21 seasons in the NBA, tied for second most in league history. He played an NBA-record 1,611 regular season games in his career. Parish was known for his strong defense, high arcing jump shots, and clutch rebounding late in games.

Robert Parish
Parish in 2005
Personal information
Born (1953-08-30) August 30, 1953
Shreveport, Louisiana
Listed height7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Listed weight230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High schoolWoodlawn (Shreveport, Louisiana)
CollegeCentenary (1972–1976)
NBA draft1976 / Round: 1 / Pick: 8th overall
Selected by the Golden State Warriors
Playing career1976–1997
Career history
19761980Golden State Warriors
19801994Boston Celtics
19941996Charlotte Hornets
1996–1997Chicago Bulls
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points23,334 (14.5 ppg)
Rebounds14,715 (9.1 rpg)
Blocks2,361 (1.6 bpg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Parish was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1996, Parish was also named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. His nickname was The Chief, after the fictitious Chief Bromden, a silent, giant Native American character in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. According to Parish, former Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell gave him this nickname because of his stoic nature.

Early life

Robert is the son of Robert Sr. and Ada Parish. He is the oldest of their four children.[1]

Parish was already 6 feet 6 inches in the seventh grade when junior high coach Coleman Kidd first noticed him and encouraged him to play basketball, which was new to him. Coleman would come to the Parish family home if Robert missed a practice and gave Parish a basketball to practice with. It was at this time that Parish started wearing his uniform No. 00: On the day they passed out the uniforms in junior high school, it was the only jersey left.[1][2]

“I really didn’t like basketball growing up.” Parish said, talking about how he focused instead on football, baseball, and track. “[Coach] Coleman would] come to my house and take me to practice every day until I had to start showing up myself, I give all the credit to him.”[2]

Parish attended Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he played for Coach Ken Ivy. He had first attended Union High School until it was closed due to desegregation. Named All-American, All-State, All-District, and All-City in 1972, Parish led Woodlawn High School to the 1972 Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class AAAA state championship.[1][2]

College career

Parish attended Centenary College of Louisiana, playing for Coach Larry Little, from 19721976, choosing the school because it was close to his home. However, he received virtually no notice because of one of the most severe penalties ever levied by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.[3]

“The reason why I chose Centenary is because of their coaches,” Parish said. “I was very impressed with the coaches."[2]

In 1965, the NCAA adopted the so-called "1.6 rule" to determine academic eligibility of incoming freshmen.[4][5] Under its provisions, freshmen academically qualified if their high school grades and standardized test scores predicted a minimum college grade point average of 1.6 on a 4-point scale.[4]

Parish, who led Woodlawn High School in Shreveport to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class AAAA state championship in 1972, took a standardized test that did not fit the NCAA's formula; Centenary converted his score to an equivalent that fit the formula, which it had done for 12 other athletes in the previous two years. This was a violation of NCAA regulations; however, the NCAA had not paid any attention to the school's actions before Parish's recruitment.[3]

Shortly before Parish was to enroll, the NCAA notified Centenary that he and four other basketball players whose test scores had been converted were ineligible to play there, but said that the school would not be subject to penalty if it rescinded the five scholarships. Centenary argued that the rule did not say that the school could not convert the scores of Parish and the other players, while the NCAA argued that Centenary could not use the test taken by Parish and the other players to establish eligibility.[3]

When Centenary refused to pull the scholarships, the NCAA issued one of the most draconian sanctions in its history. The school's basketball program was put on probation for six years, during which time it was not only barred from postseason play, but its results and statistics were excluded from weekly statistics and its existence was not acknowledged in the NCAA's annual press guides.[3]

Within days of its decision, the NCAA repealed the 1.6 rule—but refused to make the five players eligible. A few months later, all five, including Parish, sued the NCAA for their eligibility at Centenary, but lost.[3] The decision made Parish a sort of "invisible man" who racked up huge statistical totals in virtual obscurity. In his four years at Centenary, the Gents went 87-21 and spent 14 weeks in the AP Top 20 poll,[6] mostly during his senior season in 1975–76.[7] While he averaged 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds per game during his Centenary career and[7] Centenary recognized his records, the NCAA would not include Parish's statistics in its record books.[8][9]

Team USA 1975

Between his junior and senior years, Parish played for Team USA at the 1975 Pan American Games. His difficulties with the NCAA indirectly led to his not being recommended for a spot on the team. Centenary paid his way to Salt Lake City to try out; he made the team, was unanimously elected captain, and led the team to a gold medal.[3]

College legacy

Throughout his time at Centenary, Parish chose not to escape anonymity by either jumping to the National Basketball Association or American Basketball Association (the latter of which existed until the ABA–NBA merger in 1976), or by transferring to another college, even though the professional ranks offered him potential riches and a transfer would have given him eligibility and far more publicity. At the time, professional scouts did not question his physical skills, but were divided as to whether his decision to stay at Centenary was a show of loyalty or evidence of poor decision-making.[3] For his part, Parish said, "I didn't transfer because Centenary did nothing wrong. And I have no regrets. None."[10]

Overall, Parish averaged 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds in his 108-game career at Centenary and 24.8 points and 18 rebounds as a senior. The Sporting News named him a first-team All-American as a senior.[11]

In 2018, the NCAA announced that Parish's records would be recognized and placed into the NCAA Record Book after a formal appeal from Centenary College to do so was honored.[12][13]

NBA career (1976-1997)

Golden State Warriors (1976-1980)

After college, Parish was drafted in the first round of the 1976 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. He had also been drafted by the Utah Stars in the 1973 ABA Special Circumstances draft and by the Spurs in the 1975 ABA draft. Parish signed with the Warriors. The Warriors were NBA champions in 1975 (two seasons prior to Parish's rookie campaign). However, when Parish joined the Warriors, their decline had begun, and they missed the playoffs completely from 1978 to 1980.

"I was seriously thinking about having a very short basketball career before the trade because of all the losing that I experienced with the Warriors, and being blamed for the Warriors demise." Parish said of his time with Golden State. "I understand that because I was the No. 1 player taken (by the team in the 1976 draft) and the blame falls on my shoulders. But basketball is not an individual sport. It's a team sport. And I just feel like the team was an assembly of misfits and too much independent thinking. Guys were thinking about themselves as opposed to the team."[14]

Early in his career, Parish listed Mike Mitchell, Jamaal Wilkes and Bill Laimbeer as some of the NBA's "silent killers", that is, players whose contributions often cannot be measured by statistics.[15]

In 307 games over four seasons, Parish averaged 13.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks with the Warriors.[16]

Boston Celtics (1980-1994)

Heading into the 1980 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics lost Dave Cowens to retirement and had Larry Bird ready to start his second NBA season. The Celtics held the number-one overall pick in the draft.

On June 9, 1980, in a pre-draft trade, Celtics president Red Auerbach dealt the top overall pick and an additional first-round pick to the Warriors for Parish and the Warriors' first-round pick, the third overall. With that pick, the Celtics chose Kevin McHale. The Warriors then selected Joe Barry Carroll with the first pick.[16]

Reflecting on the trade after his retirement, Parish said, "I was surprised initially. But once I hung up from the Warriors after they called me and told me I was being traded to the Boston Celtics, I cheered and I jumped up and down... because I went from the (penitentiary) to the penthouse, in my opinion...That was what was so rewarding about being with the Celtics because they were all about team. You play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back of the jersey. So it was refreshing for me because that's my mentality, with the players I was playing with (in Golden State), I could not get them to understand the benefits and the rewards of playing together. They didn't get it for whatever reason. Being traded to the Celtics changed the trajectory of my career."[14]

Completing the trade gave the Celtics an imposing front court consisting of Bird, Parish, Cedric Maxwell and McHale.

Playing 14 years with the Celtics from 1980 to 1994, Parish won three NBA titles (1981, 1984 and 1986), teaming with Bird and power forward McHale. The trio came to be known as "The Big Three", and are regarded as one of the greatest front courts in NBA history; all three were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Parish is the Celtics' all-time leader in blocked shots (1,703), offensive rebounds (3,450), and defensive rebounds (7,601).[17] Bill Russell remains the team's career leader in total rebounds, as offensive and defensive rebounds were not tabulated separately prior to the 1973-1974 season.

In 14 seasons and 1106 games with the Celtics, Parish averaged a double-double of 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, shooting 55.2% from the floor.[16]

Charlotte Hornets (1994-1996)

August 4, 1994, Parish left the Celtics and signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Charlotte Hornets, at age 41.[16]

Parish played two seasons with the Hornets, playing as a backup to Alonzo Mourning.

Chicago Bulls (1996-1997)

On September 25, 1996, Parish signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls after his release from Charlotte.[16]

Playing his final NBA season with the Chicago Bulls in 1996–97, he won his fourth NBA title. At 43, he is the third-oldest player to ever play an NBA game, behind Nat Hickey of the Providence Steamrollers[18] and Kevin Willis of the Dallas Mavericks.

On August 25, 1997, Parish officially retired.[16]

Career totals

As of 2019, Parish was first on the list of National Basketball Association career games played leaders with 1,611 career games played. As of 2019, he also remains the oldest player to win an NBA championship.

Overall, in 1611 NBA games, Parish averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, shooting 53.7%.[16]

In 184 career playoff games, Parish averaged 15.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, shooting 50.6%.[16]

Parish holds NBA records for total career defensive rebounds (10,117) and most offensive rebounds in the playoffs (571).[16][19]


He was known as a versatile center, using his 7' size and speed to contain opposing players, launch precise shots from outside the paint, and finish fast breaks – the latter uncanny for a man of his stature. Fellow Hall-of-Famer and teammate from 1985 to 1987 Bill Walton once called Parish the "greatest shooting big man of all time", perhaps because of Parish's field goal and free throw shooting ability, an unusual talent among most centers. His trademark was his high-release jump shot, which traversed a very high arc before falling.

"There was no showmanship to Robert's game," said Walton, "There was the rebounding. There was the defense. There was the scoring. There was the setting of screens. There was the way he ran the floor. How many centers in today's NBA do any of that?"

In 1996, Parish, along with teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. In 1998, the Celtics retired Parish's famous #00 jersey number at halftime of a Celtics–Pacers game; this allowed Bird, then head coach of the Pacers, to participate in the ceremony.

"He was there for every practice," McHale said of Parish. "For every game. He very seldom missed anything, including assignments on the floor. His longevity is unbelievable, but his dependability was just as impressive."[11]

Parish remains active as a Celtics team consultant and mentor for current Celtics big men.

“I have never been one to seek or want attention or admiration or a pat on the back for what I’ve done,” Parish said. “I did my job. I got paid for doing my job. That was enough for me. That’s one of the reasons I was able to accept a lesser role on those teams in the ’80s. I didn’t have a huge ego.”[20]


During his career, Parish incorporated martial arts,[21] yoga and vegetarianism, and many believed this helped him throughout his training.[22]

Playing Awards

  • Nine-time NBA All-Star with the Boston Celtics.
  • All-NBA Second Team in 1981-82.
  • All-NBA Third Team in 1988-89.
  • 4x NBA Championships: Boston Celtics in 1981, 1984, and 1986 and Chicago Bulls in 1997.
  • NBA record for the most games played with 1,611 over a 21-year NBA career.


  • In 1982, Parish was inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Parish was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • Number 00 was retired by the Boston Celtics in 1998.[23]
  • Parish was inducted into the Centenary College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988.[17]
  • In 2001, Parish was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.[24]
  • Parish was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

NBA career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which Parish won an NBA championship
NBA record

Regular season

1976–77 Golden State 77118.0.503-.7087.
1977–78 Golden State 823724.0.472-.6258.
1978–79 Golden State 767531.7.499-.69812.
1979–80 Golden State 726929.4.507.000.71510.
1980–81 Boston 828228.0.545.000.7109.
1981–82 Boston 807831.7.542.000.71010.
1982–83 Boston 787631.5.550.000.69810.
1983–84 Boston 807935.8.546.000.74510.
1984–85 Boston 797836.1.542.000.74310.
1985–86 Boston 818031.7.549.000.7319.
1986–87 Boston 808037.4.556.000.73510.
1987–88 Boston 747331.2.589.000.7348.
1988–89 Boston 808035.5.570.000.71912.
1989–90 Boston 797830.3.580.000.74710.
1990–91 Boston 818130.1.598.000.76710.
1991–92 Boston 797928.9.535.000.7728.
1992–93 Boston 797927.2.535.000.6899.
1993–94 Boston 747426.9.491.000.7407.
1994–95 Charlotte 81416.7.427.000.7034.
1995–96 Charlotte 743414.7.498.000.7044.
1996–97 Chicago 4339.4.490.000.6772.
Career 1,6111,32028.4.537.000.7219.
All-Star 9115.8.529.6675.


1977 Golden State 10023.9.481-.65410.
1981 Boston 171728.9.493.000.6728.
1982 Boston 121235.5.488.000.68011.
1983 Boston 7735.6.483.000.85010.
1984 Boston 232337.8.478.000.64610.
1985 Boston 212138.2.493.000.78410.
1986 Boston 181832.8.471.000.6528.
1987 Boston 212135.0.567.000.7679.
1988 Boston 171736.8.532.000.8209.
1989 Boston 3337.3.455.000.7788.
1990 Boston 5534.0.574.000.94410.
1991 Boston 101029.6.598.000.6899.
1992 Boston 101033.5.495.000.7149.
1993 Boston 4436.5.544.000.8579.
1995 Charlotte 4017.8.545.000.4002.
1997 Chicago
Career 18416833.6.506.000.7229.

Career highs

Top shot-blocking efforts

Blocks Opponent Date
11 at Cleveland Cavaliers October 29, 1978
9 vs. Atlanta Hawks March 17, 1982
8 at New Orleans Jazz February 22, 1978
8 vs. Detroit Pistons April 3, 1979
8 at Indiana Pacers February 15, 1980

Regular season

Stat High Opponent Date
Points 40 at San Antonio Spurs February 17, 1981
Field goals made 16 5 times
Field goal attempts 26 vs Phoenix Suns January 24, 1992
Free throws made, none missed 12 at New Jersey Nets March 31, 1984
Free throws made, one missed 13 vs Atlanta Hawks March 23, 1983
Free throws made 13 vs Atlanta Hawks March 23, 1983
Free throw attempts 18 at Milwaukee Bucks April 2, 1985
Rebounds 32 vs. New York Knicks March 30, 1979
Offensive rebounds
Defensive rebounds 25 vs. New York Knicks March 30, 1979
Assists 10 vs. Philadelphia 76ers March 29, 1987
Minutes played


Stat High Opponent Date
Points 33 vs. Washington Bullets May 5, 1982
Field goals made, none missed 8-8 at Atlanta Hawks May 16, 1988
Field goals made 13 vs. Washington Bullets May 5, 1982
Field goal attempts 25 vs. Washington Bullets May 5, 1982
Free throws made, none missed 8 @ Milwaukee Bucks May 1, 1983
Free throws made, one missed 7 vs. Washington Bullets May 5, 1982
Free throws made 11 vs. Chicago Bulls April 17, 1986
Free throw attempts 13 vs. Chicago Bulls April 17, 1986
Rebounds 19 vs. Milwaukee Bucks May 17, 1987
Offensive rebounds 11 vs. Milwaukee Bucks May 17, 1987
Defensive rebounds 14 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers May 10, 1992
Assists 6 vs. Milwaukee Bucks April 29, 1983
Steals 5 (OT) vs. Los Angeles Lakers May 31, 1984
Blocks 7 vs. Philadelphia 76ers May 9, 1982
Minutes played 54 vs. Detroit Pistons May 26, 1988

See also


  1. "Walton: A Hall of an intro for The Chief". September 7, 2003.
  2. "Parish, Robert 1953– -".
  3. Moses, Sam (December 8, 1975). "Invisible In The Post". Sports Illustrated. p. 1. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  4. "Prop 48: 25 Years Later". NCAA Champion Magazine. Summer 2008. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  5. At that time, freshmen were not eligible to play varsity athletics. The NCAA allowed freshmen to play varsity sports other than football and basketball in 1968, and extended freshman varsity eligibility to those sports in 1972.
  6. At that time, the Associated Press ranked only 20 teams instead of today's 25.
  7. "Robert Parish". 2009–10 Centenary Gents Basketball Media Guide. Centenary Sports Information. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 11, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  8. "Division I All-Time Individual Leaders: Rebound Average (Since 1973)" (PDF). Official 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Record Book. p. 19. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  9. "Division I All-Time Individual Leaders: Career Records, Rebound Average (For careers beginning in 1973 or after)" (PDF). Official 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Record Book. p. 25. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
    The NCAA lists seasons by the calendar years in which they end.
  10. Moses, Sam (December 8, 1975). "Invisible In The Post". Sports Illustrated. p. 2. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
  11. "May: Chief was no big stiff". September 4, 2003.
  12. Owens, Tim (February 20, 2018). "Robert Parish's college records will be recognized by NCAA". ARKLATEXHOMEPAGE.
  13. "NCAA to recognize Robert Parish's Centenary statistics".
  14. King, Jay (March 26, 2016). "Boston Celtics legend Robert Parish remembers argument with Michael Jordan, Danny Ainge's great prank on Johnny Most and more".
  15. USA Today. December 28, 1982
  16. "Robert Parish Stats".
  17. "Robert Parish". IMDb.
  18. John Stockton: Still Going Strong at 41, published March 26, 2003
  19. "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame :: Robert Parish".
  20. Reporter, Gary Washburn-. "Gary Washburn: Robert Parish prefers to leave the glory behind - The Boston Globe".
  21. May, Peter (September 10, 2003). "Longevity was Parish trademark". Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  22. Whitfield, Stephanie (April 14, 2015). "Top 15 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Vegetarian". Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  23., Marc D'Amico. "Robert Parish - Celtics Legend". Boston Celtics.
  24. "Robert Parish".
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