There was one member of the 1980s Celtics who always seemed like the taciturn leader of the team. His expression simultaneously said: “I will end you,” and “Come on over for dinner when we’re done.” He always seemed — from a distance — like a philosopher warrior of sorts, one whose default expression usually involved a scowl. Perhaps that’s why they called him “Chief.” No one seemed to float above the fray quite like Boston’s starting center, Robert Parish, which is why we want to take time to commemorate the time he decided to take action.
Parish turns 63 today. He was a four-time NBA champion and an integral part of the triumvirate of front court dynamos — with Kevin McHale and Larry Bird — as part of the Celtics dynasty in the early and mid-’80s. They were so good for so long, they’re in the top five trios with the most playoff wins by a trio.
But like his more famous teammate, Bird, Parish was also tough to get a handle on because his emotions seemed so deadened to the flits and fits that happen during a typical NBA game. We always thought he was secretly teaching a night class about sewing at a local Boston community college while simultaneously learning jiujitsu. On that last part, we weren’t all that wrong.
Parish performs mixed martial arts and once stood up to Michael Jordan — the Chief played his final season for the 1996-97 Bulls after MJ came back from his baseball sabbatical. As Jackie MacMullen once reported for ESPN.com, Parish basically told an angry MJ at practice that there was no way he was going to kick the seven-footer’s ass, even though Parish was in his 40s:
In one of his first practices with the Bulls, Parish botched one of the plays and was amused to find Jordan jawing at him just inches from his face.
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ ” Parish recalled. “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.”
But we want to look at the time Robert Parish absolutely laid out Bill Laimbeer in the old Boston Garden.