Robert “The Chief” Parish turns 57 today, which is only funny because I could have sworn he had still been playing in the NBA at that age. The Chief played for a few other organizations, but he will always be most beloved for his time with the Celtics.
Parish was as agile as big men come, with a feathery jumper that melted nylon as it swished through the hoop, only a few seconds after he released it from high above his head. He kept himself in better shape than most humans ever dream of, playing 21 seasons and more than 1600 regular-season games. His endurance and longevity are legendary, but perhaps Parish’s association with endurance has caused people to overlook how good Parish really was.
Bob Ryan once called Parish “the single most underrated Celtic of all time,” and I’d have to agree. Parish has become the neglected man from the Bird title teams, the one player from those teams whose significance has been most drastically understated by father time. For instance, did you know that Parish finished second in MVP voting in 1982? That he made nine All-Star teams, with seven being consecutive? That he averaged at least 17 and 10 eight different times? The man was a beast, and for whatever reason he doesn’t get enough credit for it. People mention his name but few remember, or realize, the true impact he had on a game.
“I will always be a Celtic at heart,” Parish has said. And the Celtics were lucky to have him.