ROBERT Parish will forever be remembered as a Boston Celtics legend rather than Michael Jordan’s unlikely Chicago Bulls teammate.
But the 7-foot-1 center did in fact join forces with His Airness in 1996 – in what would turn out to be his NBA swan song.
Robert Parish won his fourth NBA title after teaming up with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls in 1996Credit: AFP
The 9-time All-Star became the oldest player to win a championship after triumphing in the 1997 NBA FinalsCredit: Getty
Before joining the Bulls, Parish was part of one of the best frontcourts in NBA history alongside Kevin McHale and Larry Bird during his 14-year run with the Boston CelticsCredit: Getty
Be it due to recency bias or Parish’s lack of both showmanship and interest in attention-seeking, the former No. 8 overall pick’s legacy hasn’t been talked about nearly enough.
After all, he has four championship rings – as many as LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, or Steph Curry.
Three of those chips came during his 14-year stint with Boston, whom the Louisiana native joined in a blockbuster trade with the Golden State Warriors in 1980.
The Celtics sent Nos. 1 and 13 overall picks in that year’s draft to Golden State in exchange for Parish and the 3rd overall pick, which they would use to select Kevin McHale.
It turned out to be one of the best trades in Boston’s history as Parish, McHale, and Larry Bird created one of the best frontcourts the NBA has ever seen.
The new-look Celtics spent the next decade duking it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy with the Showtime-era Los Angeles Lakers.
And they claimed it three times, in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
Parish’s versatility and efficiency played a major role in Boston’s success.
He averaged 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks for the C’s, impressing with his ability to score from outside the paint – a rare sight for players of his height at the time.
The big man left Beantown as a nine-time All-Star in 1994, joining the Charlotte Hornets as Alonzo Mourning’s backup.
Two years later, he arrived in Chicago to become the only ever player who teamed up with both Jordan and Bird in the NBA.
The Bulls needed Parish in the locker room more than they did on the court, hoping his veteran experience and no-nonsense attitude would aid their second three-peat bid of the decade.
The center did add extra grit and character to the defending NBA champions’ roster.
Parish’s stature tamed even the peak Jordan’s uber-competitiveness when the Bulls star charged at his new teammate after a botched play during one of their first practices together.
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,'” Parish recalled in an interview with ESPN in 2012.
“At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.”
The Bulls ended up winning the 1997 NBA Finals, making the 43-year-old Parish the oldest player to win a championship.
He retired a few weeks later with enough accolades to earn a place in the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams and secure Hall-of-Fame induction, which came 16 years later.