Boston legend Robert Parish talks Celtics All-Stars, Robert Williams, coaching and more in new interview

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Robert Parish is among the greatest big men to ever play the game, and he did it longer than anyone else due to his extraordinary longevity. The bulk of his 21-season career was spent with the Boston Celtics, where he won three of his four titles among countless other honors.

Chief, as Parish was dubbed by teammate Cedric Maxwell for his stoic demeanor on the court, sat down with the Celtics Wire to share his thoughts on the contemporary NBA in the year of the league’s diamond jubilee, making the 75th-anniversary team, the 2022 All-Star game, and the state of the team he spent 14 seasons playing for.

He even offers up some excellent advice for fellow Louisianan center Robert Williams III in the wide-ranging interview below (edited lightly for clarity and brevity).

Celtics Wire: So this is an important year, the 75th anniversary of the NBA, and as someone honored as not only part of the league’s 75th-anniversary team, but also its 50th, how did it feel to be so honored? And what are your thoughts on your peers who did not make the 50th-anniversary team but did make the 75th?

Parish: Well, they made one of the teams, which is always a good thing. To answer your question about how I felt, I feel proud, I feel honored. I feel like it was validation and verification about my career and I think it was a great way to be rewarded for the work, the sacrifice, the dedication that you put in over the years. So that’s my opinion of it and how I felt — my little bird chest was stuck out.

Celtics Wire: As a nine-time All-Star, it’s safe to say that you know about as well as anyone what it takes to be one. So, ahead of this year’s All-Star game in Cleveland, Ohio on TNT, there are a number of potential All-Star first-timers. Does anyone stick out to you as a likely candidate to make the All-Star game for the first time?

Parish: Not really. No one really comes to mind, to be honest. Because most of the people that deserve to be an All-Star … there’s always, no matter who had been selected, players just as deserving to be an All-Star. There’s just not enough room on the roster for those players.

Celtics Wire: That’s going to touch on something I want to ask you about the All-Star Game as well, but for me, that’s going to be Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. I think he’s almost certainly going to be an All-Star this year.

Parish: He’s very deserving of being an All-Star. I don’t know whether he is an All-Star, but if he’s not, he’s certainly deserving, and the honor of being an All-Star is certainly in his future, because he is impressive for a (young) player. Very impressive.

Celtics Wire: In terms of the Celtics, with whom you spent 14 seasons — very impressive — do you think they manage to get two All-Stars this season?

Parish: Oh, there’s a possibility that it could be two. But I have my reservations because they are not winning like they normally do. So both (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum) may not get the honor of being an All-Star, so we just want to sit tight and see what happens.

Celtics Wire: In your opinion of the two, who do you think is more likely of the two to end up an All-Star this season?

Parish: I would say Tatum because he gets the most (publicity). He’s the most popular of that duo. And he appears — this is just me saying it, I don’t know for certain — he appears like he’s the leader, or one of the leaders, of that ball club. So I would have to say if one of them is chosen, it has to be Tatum.

Celtics Wire: Speaking of Boston, what are your thoughts on Robert Williams? Do you think he will ever make an All-Star game, and what is his ceiling?

Parish: Oh, there’s a lot of potential there. I think what might hinder him is a mentor; the right mentor. We need a mentor that played the position — NOT a guard or a forward trying to tell the center how to play the center position. It’d be like me trying to tell a guard or forward how to play the position when I never played the position. And I think that’s one of the issues with the NBA coaching. They don’t have enough big man coaches; they’ve got coaches for the forwards and the guards, the little people. The bigs need love too!

Celtics Wire: So, when are you going to dabble in coaching? I’d love to see that — any thoughts on that?

Parish: Well, first of all, I’d need to get an opportunity!

Celtics Wire: That leads well into my next question about Robert Williams. If you could give him one piece of advice, what would it be?

Parish: To have unconditional confidence and belief in yourself. Of course, like everything else in life, your career is going to ebb and flow. You’re going to have good times and bad times. So you’ve just got to have unshakable confidence in yourself. And if he can seek out a former NBA center — I had Clifford Ray in my corner.

Celtics Wire: I’ve got a question about him later! We’ll get to Clifford Ray in a little bit, but for a very different reason — I’m sure you can guess what it is.

Parish: Yeah, I clicked with Ray as a mentor to guide me and help me navigate the challenges of the NBA, so that would be my advice to Mr. Williams.

Celtics Wire: You once reportedly said Mike Mitchell, Jamaal Wilkes, and Bill Laimbeer were the NBA’s “silent killers,” whose impact can’t be measured by statistics. Who are those players in today’s game — and are any of them Celtics?

Parish: I’m trying to think. Oh, definitely; Al Horford! He’s a difference-maker for the Celtics. And — I’m having a brain freeze here — he’s impactful, but doesn’t get a lot of attention. He plays for Denver and I think he may be hurt now.

Celtics Wire: Michael Porter, Jr.?

Parish: Thank you!

Celtics Wire: Watching Joe Johnson return to the Celtics briefly this season made me think of your remarkable longevity in the league at 21 seasons. You both used yoga to extend your careers. What advice would you give players today on how to play in the NBA longer?

Parish: Nutrition is paramount. And also stretching is very important. I think there’s one reason why I was able to play as long because as you age, you get tighter and stiffer. You start to lose your flexibility. And that’s one way of staying mobile and agile. Stretching is very, very important. And you’ve got to realize the season, when as you get older, the season is never over in terms of training and conditioning and paying attention to what you do and what you put in your body. Twelve months out of the year; there’s no offseason. For the older player, that’s the advice that I will pass on to players (who) they’re thinking about planning, having a long career. There are no offseasons, and you’ve got to take excellent care of yourself — that’s paramount.

Celtics Wire: Is vegetarianism a factor for you?

Parish: I’m not a true vegetarian. I don’t read meat, but I do eat fish and chicken. I must admit that I tried to be a vegetarian. But when I don’t eat meat, I lose too much weight. And I don’t have any weight to lose, especially when I’m playing. I was already light in the past to start with. So ,I tried to be a true vegetarian, but I was losing too much weight. So, I started eating fish and chicken again, but it certainly plays a part because it’s healthier. And also, I would advise players to watch their sugar and sodium consumption, because that dehydrates you. And it fatigues you, and we all know that fatigue makes cowards out of all of us. What you don’t want to do is have your career cut short because you couldn’t keep yourself in shape.

Celtics Wire: The midrange shot was a principal tool in your arsenal and is making a comeback of sorts. It never went away, but it’s experiencing something of a renaissance. What other skills would you recommend contemporary big men spend time developing?

Parish: I have to say that it’s not necessary for them to have a 3-point range. But be consistent. If you’re going to be from the mid-range on in, pivot your back to the basket, be consistent with it. Because I always feel like you don’t have to be a 3-point shooter to be effective in today’s game. But you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket. Two points is still putting points … on the board. So I’m glad to see that Kevin Durant keeping the mid-range game alive and well and important, and relevant. And also Klay Thompson is is another good mid-range shooter, but he still has a 3-point range also. And I liked it, because I always felt like, if you could have a mid-range game, you can play in any era because pretty much today, I call this the 3-point era right here, thanks to the Warriors. They’ve got everybody launching up 3s that shouldn’t be launching up 3s. They don’t shoot the ball like the Warriors do. But that being said, they are piggybacking off whoever wins it — that’s the way this league works.

Celtics Wire: At the three-quarter century mark of the NBA’s history, what is in your opinion the most important moment in league history so far, and what do you think is in store for the NBA’s future?

Parish: The protocol that was put into place to deal with this pandemic. I thought it was interesting and fascinating. The concept the NBA came up with last year for the playoff with it in the bubble. I think they called it the bubble. I definitely like that concept. And that philosophy of isolation, to help cut down on contamination. And also, I like the fact that the NBA has always been one of the leaders in terms of our sports organizations on civil rights. We’ve always been upfront and ahead of sending that message out that we are all for equal rights, equal opportunity. social justice. And that’s one thing that I’m very proud of about being a former NBA player. That we are concerned about everybody — not just about ourselves. We all should have that attitude.

Celtics Wire: That made me really happy to watch unfold. I really hope we see more of that moving forward. In terms of the future of the NBA, do you see expansion? Do you see overseas expansion to Mexico or to some other part of the world? What do you think of the future of the league? What’s going to be coming next?

Parish: I think we’re going to be global (league) one of these days. I think the NBA is laying the foundation and groundwork for that now, because they send players, former players, and current players including myself, over to Europe a lot. I’ve been to Europe a lot, to the Asian countries a lot promoting the NBA. I have been in Mexico a few times promoting the NBA. So, I think it’s just a matter of time because the NBA still building new relationships. And that’s what I’ve been told. One of the whole ups is those countries don’t have a facility big enough to make it worthwhile financially for the league, for the NBA to play more than one or two games. To go over there and say stay for two weeks and play four or five games just doesn’t make sense right now. The bottom line doesn’t make sense. So I think once they work out of the logistics in terms of where they are going to play, I think that’s when you’re going to see more NBA presence and more NBA games being played.

Celtics Wire: Very cool. Thank you for your time, Robert! We really appreciate this interview.

Parish: Thank you for having me! Thank you and stay safe and healthy going forward.

This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!

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