Grandfather’s Clock Retire? Parish The Thought, Even After Abdul-Jabbar’s Record Falls
At age 23 and fresh out of Centenary, Robert Parish had set what he considered a lofty goal for his NBA career.
“Ten years,” he said, smiling and slowly shaking his head as he chuckled at the memory of his myopic vision. “I thought if I could play 10 years in the league, it would be a great career - more than I could ever hope for in my wildest dreams.”
Ten seasons has turned into 20, and today Parish can tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA record for career games played. When the Charlotte Hornets center takes the court against the Chicago Bulls, he will appear in his 1,560th contest.
“I’m trying to downplay all this,” said Parish, a 42-year-old grandfather whose hair is flecked with gray. “I’m just trying to keep it as low-key as possible. It’s difficult for a 7-footer to be in the background. But I try to do it as much as I can.”
Parish was rarely in the background in 14 seasons with the Boston Celtics, a team he joined in a trade after spending his first four years in the league with Golden State. Parish was a mainstay in the middle for a Boston team that made 13 consecutive playoff appearances.
Now in his second season in Charlotte, Parish has recently found himself back in the starting rotation as the Hornets fight for a playoff spot.
How long can he continue? Parish, who will be 43 in August, said that’s a question he’ll ponder this summer. One of the factors he said will come into play is his contract status.
“Next year’s an option year - the team’s option - so I don’t know what direction they’re going to be headed in,” he said. “I don’t know whether I’m included in their future or not.”
“I’m sure he’ll end up playing next year,” Charlotte coach Allan Bristow said. “I don’t think he’s going to just play five or six games past the record and then say, ‘Well, I’ve got the record, so that’s it.”’
Told of Bristow’s remarks, Parish smiled.
“I definitely appreciate the endorsement,” he said. “Definitely I would like to play. I just haven’t made a decision about playing. It’s not concrete yet.”
Parish has started 15 consecutive games as part of Bristow’s switch to a two-center lineup, a move that has given Charlotte a boost in its bid to grab the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Parish has come up with some big games during the run, including 17 rebounds against Phoenix and a 14-rebound, seven-block performance that helped the Hornets defeat the Lakers earlier this week.
“What I’ve tried to do is maintain what I have,” he said. “Obviously my skill level has eroded. I’m not the same player. So I just try to keep myself sharp.”
One key is a well-planned diet. Another is conditioning.
“I don’t allow myself to get out of shape,” said Parish, whose off-season workout routine includes two forms of martial arts, weight lifting and running - but no basketball.
“I don’t pick up a basketball from the time the season ends until about two weeks before training camp. It helps keep me fresh.”
The Hornets originally acquired Parish with the idea that his habits would rub off on Alonzo Mourning, but Mourning was traded at the start of the season. Since then, Parish has worked with Charlotte’s other two centers, Matt Geiger and rookie George Zidek.
Parish’s appreciation extends beyond the locker room. He is an extremely popular figure at the Charlotte Coliseum, where choruses of “Chief” begin the moment he rises from the bench and grow almost deafening when he makes a big play. He earned the nickname from former Boston teammate Cedric Maxwell, who said Parish reminded him of Chief Bromden in the movie, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“Those were good times, but these are good, too. Some of my fondest memories are with the Hornets,” Parish said.