Robert Parish Reveals the Little Secret to His Longevity in the NBA
Growing up, Robert Parish never liked basketball. He was tall, so putting a basketball in his hands was a given. That didn’t mean the former Boston Celtics center had to take advantage.
Several years later, Parish became the NBA’s all-time leader in games played. He played 21 years in the league and played a record 1,611 games, 51 more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is second on the list. Recently, Parish revealed a simple part of his preparation that he says had everything to do with his long life in the NBA.
Robert Parish went from unknown to Hall of Famer Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics steps onto the court during an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 18, 1991 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images.
Although he didn’t develop a love for the game until later in life, Parish became a high school All-American and state champion at Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. He did so after being unable to make a layup until eighth grade.
“It took me a year to get a layup,” Parish admitted in a 2004 Sports Illustrated article. “It was a great moment. I was in eighth grade and I remember feeling really good about myself. I could make a lay-up.
Parish was 6-foot-5 at 13 and was clumsy and uncoordinated on the court. He developed his game and by the time he graduated he was seven feet. He played his college ball locally at Centenary College, where he played four years and averaged 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds.
The NCAA put Centenary on probation for six years, barring him from playing in the playoffs and not including the stats in the record books. It all happened because Parish and five other freshmen took a standardized test that didn’t match the NCAA formula.
The Golden State Warriors drafted Parish with the eighth overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. He played four years with the Warriors before they traded him to the Boston Celtics in 1980. With Boston, Parish won three NBA titles and became an All-Star nine times. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Parish reveals the little secret of its longevity
Parish insisted the turning point in his career was his dedication to fitness. During an appearance on the Players Own Voice podcast, Parish admitted that yoga and healthy eating played a big role in getting her into shape.
“The Warriors had a wife and husband nutritional team at the time,” Parish said. “And they were talking about the benefits and rewards of nutrition. Also, with stretching and strength training and avoiding sugar. I used to have a bad sweet tooth. You know, Haagen-Dazs ice cream? I used to kill that. They always say it’s the Achilles heel of any athlete – sugar.
Fitness and diet were big factors, but Parish said the key to her longevity was stretching.
“I was never a big stretcher,” he admitted. “I felt like I didn’t need it. My first yoga class I went to, I was so embarrassed. There were older women who could touch their toes, and I couldn’t. I’m like, I’m a professional athlete. How not to touch my toes? And they are weekend athletes. They are weekend civilian athletes. They were touching their toes and doing the splits and all that. And I was just struggling to grab my shins.
“That was a turning point for me. The light went out. And I think the only reason I’ve experienced longevity in the game? Stretching.”
“I’ll never forget that, we were playing against the Dallas Mavericks when I was with the Celtics, and I hit a wet spot high on the key and swerved.
“Hadn’t I done yoga and stretching, taken it seriously? The team doctor and the Mavericks doctor said my career would be over. I would have ripped, you know, my whole groin area. I would have just ruined it all.