During his 14-year tenure in a city that deemed him the “Chief,” Robert Parish made history on its court as a Celtic. Now, the NBA legend and Hall of Famer is back in Boston, but this time to mentor its adolescent boys as they start a journey of their own.
EBONY got the chance to talk with the man himself about his work with The Boys and Girls Club of Boston and their Passport to Manhood Program, the people who helped shape him, and a potential endeavor that will bring him back on the NBA court.
EBONY: Can you tell me about the Passport to Manhood Program and what you’re doing here today?
Robert Parish: I was very drawn to this particular program because of the work the Boys and Girls Club is doing for the youth of the community...I think it’s very important what the Boys and Girls Club and Gillette are doing. They have fostered a relationship for the betterment of our children. That’s important and they should be commended for that because they’re doing something that’s going to help our youth be better people in the future. They’re giving our kids the tools they need to make good decisions, not only about what they look like and what they smell like, but also who they hang out with. You know making intelligent choices. That’s very important.
EBONY: What are your feelings on being able to give back to the Boston community after having made such a name for yourself on the court as a Celtic?
RP: I think it’s very important to give something back. Hopefully I was able to help highlight some of the pitfalls of growing from adolescence to a teenager. Good grooming and hygiene are essential. It’s never too early to start being concerned about your appearance—first impressions are everything. Part of the message that I was trying to instill in them was to start taking care of yourself early because you want to begin making good habits instead of bad habits. Also, be confident. If you don’t feel good about yourself, how can you expect others to? I always feel like you should walk into a room or walk down the street, like you belong. That’s the philosophy that I always try to subscribe to.
EBONY: Who was your mentor growing up?
RP: To be honest my mentor was my mom and dad. I was very blessed and fortunate to have parents like I had. I was so much taller than everyone else and had a tendency to slouch as a result. I didn’t walk with correct posture. And so my parents stayed on me about that – pushing me to walk erect, with my head up. I was always looking at the ground because I was self-conscious about my height. I had big feet, big hands, and all that. Not to mention all of the ridicule that I took from my antagonist growing up. They taught me to be proud of who I was and to not let anyone or anything make me feel otherwise.
EBONY: What is one piece of advice that you learned from your parents that has stuck with you through the years?
RP: One piece of advice that I still subscribe to in terms of philosophy is to treat others like you would want to be treated. That’s something that my parents always told us, not just me, but my siblings also. Treat people like you want to be treated. That’s a philosophy that I always try to monitor myself by.
EBONY: You hold the record for playing more games than any other player in NBA history. What has and does the game of basketball mean to you?
RP: Everything that I have and had experienced is a result of basketball. Basketball has done a lot for me. I am very honored and I think it was a privilege that I was able to play basketball for a living.
EBONY: You made history with the Celtics—you, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale became known as the “Big Three.” What was the most memorable part of being on the court with these guys?
RP: What stood out for me, when I think about Larry and Kevin is that during their premium years they got better every year. I always respected that about them, because they didn’t have to. Their basketball resume was so impressive they could have just let themselves live off of their past accomplishments, but they never did. They had a 5 to 6 year window where they got better every year. And so I had to step my game up because they stepped their game up.
EBONY: Are you still in touch with them today?
RP: Only during the playoffs. We don’t correspond much during the season, but during the playoffs I follow what they’re doing more closely, because Larry