The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1975-76 Season

Left: Paul Westphal (#44) trying to block Jo Jo White; Center: John Drew (#22) and Bob Dandridge #(10); Right: Bob McAdoo shooting over defenders
Left: Paul Westphal (#44) trying to block Jo Jo White; Center: John Drew (#22) and Bob Dandridge #(10); Right: Bob McAdoo shooting over defenders

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

The 1975-76 season would be the last in which the pro basketball world in the United States would be divided into rival camps. The NBA and ABA would merge in the offseason thus making the All-NBA 3rd Team selections that much harder. Hooray, I suppose. So here we have the final All-NBA 3rd Team – or what the All-NBA 3rd Team should have been – of the old NBA.

A new era had already begun in Milwaukee. The Bucks had traded their franchise center(piece), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to the Los Angeles Lakers for a Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters, Elmore Smith, and Dave Myers. Despite the loss of Kareem, the addition of several pretty good players in his place allowed the Bucks to turn in the exact same record in 1976 as they did in 1975: 38 wins and 44 losses. The biggest reason for the Bucks’ ability to stay competitive even after losing Kareem was Bob Dandridge. The small forward who had been the 3rd Wheel behind Kareem and Oscar Robertson earlier in his career was now the Man in his seventh NBA season. He rose to the challenge with best season yet: 21.5 PPG (career-high), 7.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 50% FG, and 82.5% FT. The Bucks surprising season came to an end early in the playoffs against Detroit. Dandridge averaged 22  PPG in the three-game series that saw every game decided by three points.

Turning south, we find another team on the rebound in 1976: the Atlanta Hawks. Their core of Pete Maravich (traded), Walt Bellamy (retired), and Lou Hudson (over 30, soon-to-be-traded) was pretty much finished and they put their hopes into young forward John Drew to return them to glory. Drew had been sensational his rookie year (1975) with 18.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Now in his sophomore campaign, Drew upped the ante with 21.6 PPG while escalating his FG% from .428 in ’75 to .502 in ’76. The remarkable shooting improvement gave him a PER of 25.2, good enough for second in the entire NBA that season. Drew also placed second in the league in WS/48. The offensive rebounding machine played a mere 30 minutes a game, which might be why Atlanta staggered to 30 wins this year. Drew was a wise investment, but the Hawks would need more to return to the playoffs.

For the third season in a row, Bob McAdoo led the NBA in PPG and thus easily secures a spot on this squad. The 1975 MVP of the league again averaged over 30 points, again grabbed over 12 rebounds, and again blocked over 2 shots a game this season. For good measure McAdoo also dished a career-high 4.0 assists per game. McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves finished with 46 wins this season and for the third-straight season found themselves dislodged from the postseason by the Eastern Conference’s eventual champion after a hard-fought series. Appearing to have reached a stalemate, the Braves would unfortunately trade McAdoo the following season and they embarked on a four-decade sojourn (as the Braves and Clippers) to return to the heights McAdoo took them too.

At the guard slots we have a pair of former teammates: Jo Jo White and Paul Westphal. The two shared the backcourt in Boston, but Westphal was traded to the Phoenix Suns after making too many demands for a new, wealthier contract from the Celtics. Not sure exactly how much money Westphal demanded, but he sure seemed worth it. The backup guard in Boston turned into a starting sensation with the Suns: 20.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 2.6 SPG in 1976. And this would be his worst season through 1980. Jo Jo White on the other hand was about to hit the downside of his career. About to hit it. He was still in fine form this season averaging 18.9 PPG and 5.4 APG in his seventh season with the Celtics.

In fitting fashion, it would be Westphal’s Suns and White’s Celtics that met in the NBA Finals this season. The tight series could have swung either way, but the 3OT Game 5 won by Boston ultimately gave the Celtics the series edge. White scored 33 points that game on his way to being named Finals MVP.

Pos. Player Team G PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bob Dandridge Milwaukee Bucks 73 21.5 7.4 2.8  0.6  1.5 0.502 0.824 9.0 19.1
F John Drew Atlanta Hawks 77 21.6 8.6 1.9  0.4  1.8 0.502 0.744 10.6 25.3
C Bob McAdoo Buffalo Braves 78 31.1 12.4 4.0  2.1  1.2 0.487 0.762 12.3 23.3
G Jo Jo White Boston Celtics 82 18.9 3.8 5.4  0.2  1.6 0.449 0.838 7.4 14.6
G Paul Westphal Phoenix Suns 82 20.5 3.2 5.4  0.5  2.6 0.494 0.830 10.0 19.9

Gus Williams

Born: October 10, 1953
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Professional Career:
Golden State Warriors (NBA): 1975-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’84
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1984-’86
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1987

Gus Williams
Gus Williams

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, few, if any, guards could match the greatness of Gus Williams.

From 1978 to 1985, Gus averaged 20 points, 6 assists and 2.3 steals a game. At 6’2″, Williams was able to play either guard position. He was at his best busting out on the break and creating sublime scoring opportunities on the run. As time wore on and his team’s needs changed, Gus became more and more of a play-maker topping off with 8.5 APG in 1984.

Williams’ heyday was certainly with the Seattle SuperSonics, but his illustrious career began in Golden State.

Drafted by the Warriors in 1975, Williams was a sturdy backup in his first two years (1976 and 1977). That Warriors squad should have been a perennial contender in the late 1970s. Rick Barry was moving just a touch past his prime but with Williams, Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith, Clifford Ray and Robert Parish, that team initially had more than enough talent to contend. Indeed, The Warriors won the NBA title the year before Gus showed up (1975) and they reeled off an NBA best 59 wins in his rookie season (1976).

Ultimately, the Warriors fell apart in the 1976 postseason, losing the Western Conference Finals to 42-win Phoenix, and never recovered. Overlooked as a prized asset, the Warriors let Gus leave and sign with the Sonics after the 1976-77 season. One man’s afterthought is another’s franchise cornerstone.

Gus_Williams_to_Jack_Sikma

Williams was inserted into Seattle’s starting lineup and his career truly took off. With Dennis Johnson playing alongside him, Williams wasn’t a full-time point guard or a full-time shooting guard. He just went out and played in the backcourt to stunning results. The Sonics made the NBA Finals in 1978, losing to the Washington Bullets in 7 games. The next year, Seattle returned to the Finals in a rematch with Washington. This time they captured the title in just 5 games with Gus averaging 29 points in the series.

Much like the Golden State year’s though, Gus’s time in Seattle was marred by a team that fell apart at the seams and didn’t maintain its greatest potential. Gus was no bystander in the Sonics’ fall. Offered a 3-year, $1.5 million deal by management, Williams rejected the deal and held out in the summer of 1980. The hold out continued into the fall. Then into the new year. The contract dispute ending up lasting the duration of the 1980-81 season.

Finally, Gus and Seattle agreed to a deal that paid him $700,000 a year, but the Sonics won just one more playoff series through the rest of Williams’ tenure with the club. In the summer of 1984, he was traded to the Washington Bullets where enjoyed one final campaign of brilliance in 1985 before the undefeated Father Time began to take his toll on Gus.

Gus Williams’ career unfortunately gets lost in what is sometimes perceived as the NBA’s doldrums, the late 1970s. His Sonics were a top-shelf contender in 1978, 1979, and 1980, losing in the NBA Finals, winning the title, and losing in the Western Conference Finals, respectively. But they lost in the WCF to the Showtime Lakers who ran away with the West, and the subsequent media attention, for the 1980s leaving Gus and his accomplishments in the dust.

However, it’s never too late to appreciate greatness. Memory may not instantly recognize Gus Williams and his Sonics of the era as great, but the history shows that indeed they were, and indeed he was.

Honors

Champion (1979)
All-NBA 1st Team (1982)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1980)
2x All-Star (1982-’83)
All-Rookie Team (1976)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (825 games):
17.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG
.505 TS%, .461 FG%, .756 FT%
18.5 PER, .127 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (99 games):
19.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG
.542 TS%, .476 FG%, .737 FT%
20.4 PER, .150 WS/48

 

Elvin Hayes

Born: November 17, 1945
Position: Power Forward and Center
Professional Career:
San Diego Rockets (NBA): 1968-’71
Houston Rockets (NBA): 1971-’72; 1981-’84
Baltimore Bullets (NBA): 1972-’73
Capital Bullets (NBA): 1973-’74
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1975-’81

Elvin Hayes (celtic-nation.com)
Elvin Hayes (celtic-nation.com)

The Big E is the only player in NBA history to have played 50,000 minutes.

Oh sure, three other players have played more minutes than that, but none have played exactly 50,000 minutes like Elvin. That kind of monumental memorability was something typical of Hayes’ career. As a college standout at the University of Houston, Hayes helped defeat the juggernaut UCLA Bruins led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Game of the Century played in the Astrodome (which was the world’s 8th Wonder at the time).

As a rookie, Hayes led the NBA in points per game with a sterling 28.4 starring for the San Diego Rockets. The next season he led the league in rebounds with a sizzling 16.9 per game. That same year he led the league in minutes played per game with an exhausting 44.7.

However, the Rockets were a dud on the court. They made one playoff appearance, which was in Elvin’s rookie season. A move to Houston in time for the 1971-72 season didn’t help. Hayes feuded with his coaches and the Rockets were sick of their disgruntled star center.

Hayes was traded to the Baltimore (soon-to-be-Washington) Bullets in the 1972 off-season and found much greater success. Formerly a center, the Big E slid now slid to power forward beside Wes Unseld. Hayes was the shot-blocking protector of air space around the basket, while Unseld was the rock that clogged the physical space of the defensive lane. Hayes was quick, Unseld immovable. They complemented each other perfectly and the Bullets were off flying high like Hayes dunking on the break…

Elvin_Hayes_dunks

The two stars propelled Washington to three Finals appearances in the decade (1975, 1978, 1979) and captured the 1978 NBA title after the additions of forward Bobby Dandridge and outstanding coach Dick Motta. All the while, Hayes continued to rack up the prodigious stats thanks to his lathe-like frame, his proficient mid-range jump shot, and his shot-blocking ability.

He wasn’t the most efficient player around, but there’s something to be said for a player who can produce. And from 1969 to 1980, the Big E was producing. He averaged 23.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals in this stretch. His field goal percentage nestled in at 45% and his free throws at 67%. Again, not the most efficient player, but efficiency is just but one measure of a man. Hayes in this same 12-year stretch averaged 42 minutes a game and missed only six games.

Give him immense credit for those marks of health and longevity. At age 36 in the 1981-82, he started all 82 games for the Houston Rockets (he was traded back to the Rockets in 1981) and played 37 minutes a night doing so. Only Wilt Chamberlain at that same age played more minutes than Hayes mustered.

Upon his retirement in 1984, after that second-stint with the Rockets, the Big E ranked third all-time in points, rebounds, and blocks. And of course his minutes played were the most at that time. So were his games played.

These prodigious stats certainly don’t mean Elvin was perfect or without fault. His shooting percentage was a bit low for a power forward. His free throw percentage a tad woeful. But these nitpicks are just that, nitpicks.

He’s one of the handful of truly great power forwards in the game’s history… even if we tend to forget that fact.

Honors

Champion (1978)
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1975, 1977, 1979)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1973-74, 1976)
2x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1974-75)
All-Rookie Team (1969)
12x All-Star (1969-80)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (1303 games):
21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG
.491 TS%, .452 FG%, .670 FT%
17.7 PER, .116 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (96 games):
22.9 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.1 SPG
.501 TS%, .464 FG%, .652 FT%
19.1 PER, .135 WS/48

Dave Bing

Born: November 24, 1943
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Professional Career:
Detroit Pistons (NBA): 1966-’75
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1975-’77
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1977-’78

Dave Bing warm ups

Dave Bing’s remarkable career is rather stunning. He was one of the best guards – whether shooting or point – for a decade in the NBA averaging 20 points and six assists per game. And he did that despite two horrific eye injuries. As a child Bing’s vision was marred when a nail scarred his left eye. As a professional, another eye injury, this time a detached retina, further dimmed his vision. But the injuries, remarkably, never dimmed his basketball abilities.

The prior to detaching his retina, Bing was an awesome scorer for the Detroit Pistons. He was wily and always winding with the basketball. His ability to contort while elevated in the air beguiled opponents. Whatever his official label – point, shooting, combo, whatever-guard – Bing in just his second season led the NBA in total points scored in 1967 while also finishing second in points per game with 27.1. Up through 1971, Bing averaged 24.3 points a night along with 5.7 assists.

Then came his retina injury.

The points per game for the rest of his career fell to 17.2. Bing’s passing ability, however, remained unchanged and even got better. He averaged a career-high 7.8 APG in 1973. Per 36 minutes he tallied 6.2 assists after his eye injury compared with 5.5 before. As it turns out, the same slithering attributes that made his shot hard to stop, often allowed him to pass the ball when opponents least expected it.

Bing spent the vast majority of his career with the Detroit Pistons. He represented Motown six times in the All-Star Game and in 1968 he spurred the Pistons to a 40-42 record. Doesn’t sound like much but it was the best regular season record for the franchise since 1956 when they were in Fort Wayne. In the 1968 playoffs, the Pistons lost 4-games-to-2 to the eventual champion Celtics. In the deciding Game 6, Bing scored 44 points overall including 37 in the second half and 16 of those second half points came in a blistering row.

The Pistons high-water mark in the Bing Era came in 1974 when the club won 52 games. Alongside Bob Lanier, Bing’s Pistons eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference Semi-Finals by 2 points in the Game 7. That achievement would be the best regular season and playoff showing for the Detroit Pistons until the Bad Boys game around a dozen years later.

From there the Pistons declined and Bing was traded to the Washington Bullets. His chance at an NBA title never seemed higher, initially at least, when he joined the Bullets. Washington had appeared in the 1975 NBA Finals, losing to Golden State. They hoped Bing was another, if not final, piece toward securing the championship. Dave made one final All-Star appearance in 1976. He made it worth his while snagging the game’s MVP.

However, the Bullets would be bounced in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in both of Bing’s seasons with the franchise. And by the end of the 1977 postseason, it was clear Bing was diminished considerably. He finally ended his career in 1978 with the Boston Celtics.

Twice he averaged 27 points in a season and twice he was named to the All-NBA 1st Team. Unfortunately, Bing never achieved the ultimate team glory, but his wizardry with the ball was a spellbinding sensation. All the more remarkable considering he did it all with a bad eye. Makes you wonder what might have happened if both his eyes were 100% healthy.

Accolades

2x All-NBA 1st Team (1968, 1971)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1974)
7x All-Star (1968-’69, 1971, 1973-’76)
All-Star Game MVP (1976)
Rookie of the Year (1967)
All-Rookie Team (1967)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (901 games):
20.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG
.502 TS%, .441 FG%, .775 FT%
17.6 PER, .101 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (31 games):
15.4 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 0.6 SPG
.470 TS%, .423 FG%,  .748 FT%
15.6 PER, .067 WS/48

Willie Wise

Born: March 3, 1947
Position: Small Forward
Professional Career:
Los Angeles Stars (ABA): 1969-’70
Utah Stars (ABA): 1970-’74
Virginia Squires (ABA): 1975-’76
Denver Nuggets (NBA): 1976-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977

Willie Wise

“My first and only goal coming into the ABA was to be a great defensive player,” explained Wise. “I loved playing defense. It was always a challenge to see if I could stop guys like Rick Barry, John Brisker, and Roger Brown. But I didn’t like to think of myself as the best defensive player in the league. That’s because when I started to think about that I might have let down.”

Remember the ABA: Willie Wise

Like the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, Willie Wise was never quite satisfied with himself. No matter how well he played, how well he shot, how well he shut down opponents, he was never ever satisfied with himself. For Wise basketball was a game meant for passion and zeal. To believe perfection had been attained was to acquiesce with complacency.

Wise had no time and no place for resting on laurels.

He was a man dedicated to improving every facet of his game. Working with Utah Stars coach Bill Sharman, himself a great shooting guard, Wise drastically improved his offensive game and by 1972 was averaging 23 points a game while shooting a touch over 50% from the field. His defense was stifling and suffocating. And even though he stood just 6’5″ he was also a superb rebounder, snaring 10.7 boards a game over his first three seasons (1970-’72).

Just ask the poor Kentucky Colonels who faced the wonderful Wise in 1971. Stars center Zelmo Beaty had a whale of a game with 40 points and 15 rebounds, but Wise was right behind him:

“Beaty did a great job,” Sharman said following the game. “But Wise was outstanding.” The Utah coach described Wise’s 26 points and 24 rebounds as “just too much to expect.”

Wise and Beaty had huge games at the right moment. It was Game 2 of the 1971 Finals and they edged out Kentucky 131 to 121. They eventually won the title in seven games. The Stars behind Wise, Beaty, and Ron Boone were a constant power in the ABA from 1970 to 1974, making at least the Conference Finals every season.

Wise may have hated to praise himself, but this team success left him gushing all over. And as this successful team filled with teammates and friends aged it was dismantled. Wise, a man who played for passion, lost much of his drive and zeal as he saw management discard his brothers in basketball arms.

After the 1974 season ended with a Finals defeat against the New York Nets, the Stars tossed aside Beaty and super scorer Jimmy Jones while Wise went into hiding refusing to play. After months of stalemate, the Stars sold Wise to the Virginia Squires late in the 1974-75 season. Willie played just 16 games but, despite the layoff, he looked close to his normal, All-Star self averaging 21 points and six rebounds.

The next season (1975-76) Wise began suffering from a balky knee. The knee quickly proved extremely troublesome and his career was totally over by 1977 at age 30. Wise, true to his name, wasn’t one to beleaguer the point. He didn’t try and hang on for years making comebacks. One moment revealed to him it was all over:

I remember they put me on the Iceman. That’s George Gervin. And I don’t mean this in a vain, proud way, but I used to be able to stay with the Iceman as long as he was out on the court. If he took me down on the block, he could elevate over me because he was 6’7″, almost 6’8″, and he could leap. But if he tried to beat me out on the floor, he couldn’t. And boy, he blew by me. I thought, Whoa. And that’s when it really hit me that I just couldn’t move laterally anymore. That was the time on the court that I thought, You know what? I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.

But when Willie could do it, he was one of the best.

Accolades

Champion (1971)
2x All-Defensive 1st Team (1973-’74)
2x All-ABA 2nd Team (1972, 1974)
3x All-Star (1972-’74)
All-Rookie Team (1970)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (552 games):
17.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG
.529 TS%, .475 FG%, .724 FT%
18.1 PER, .127 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (74 games):
19.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG
.542 TS%, .498 FG%, .709 FT%
19.0 PER, .143 WS/48

Dave Cowens

Born: October 25, 1948
Position: Center
Professional Career:
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1970-’80
Milwaukee Bucks (NBA): 1982-’83

Dave Cowens
Dave Cowens

With so many great players and Hall of Famers, the following sentence may apply to a bushel of players, but, here it goes…

Dave Cowens may be the overlooked Celtics legend.

Yes, other guys like Satch Sanders, Sam Jones, Bill Sharman, Jo Jo White, and others get the overlooked treatment, but Cowens is one of just four Celtics to win an MVP award as a Celtic. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Larry Bird are the others. Cowens, however, doesn’t ever seem to demand the kind of historical attention those other three command.

This is a strange turn of events given that Cowens demanded and commanded all kinds of attention while he played. How could you ignore the firebrand who yelled and wailed at horrendous referee calls that he considered crimes against humanity? (Famously Cowens, disgusted with a ticky tack foul call, decided to show the ref a real foul by body-checking the flopping Mike Newlin of the Houston Rockets. “Now that’s a foul!”, Cowens howled at the ref.) How could you miss the 6’9″ center crashing the boards relentlessly knocking bodies out of the way in the process? How could you possibly overlook his lefty hooks, outstanding jump shot, and agile athleticism?

And most of all, how could you ignore the startling success of the Celtics while Cowens was with them?

Joining Jo Jo White and John Havlicek in the 1970-71 season, Cowens was Rookie of the Year and helped re-establish Boston as a force after the retirement of Bill Russell in 1969. Their 44 wins weren’t good enough to make the East playoffs in 1971, but in 1972 they improved to 56 wins and in 1973 they reeled off a ridiculous 68 wins.

That Celtics squad may be the most undervalued great team in NBA history. Sixty-eight wins and I bet most readers never even knew about it. The problem is that Havlicek hurt his shoulder that postseason and the Celtics were (barely) dislodged in the 1973 Conference Finals by the New York Knicks in seven games.

Cowens for his efforts that year was named MVP. It’s one of the more controversial MVPs in NBA history. Cowens made the All-NBA 2nd Team that very same season while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made the All-NBA 1st Team at center, but still lost out on MVP to Cowens. To his credit, Dave averaged 20.5 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists that year. Then again, Kareem averaged 30.2 points, 16.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.

In any event, the distressing playoff loss to the Knicks in ’73 didn’t cause any let up in Cowens’s intensity for the 1973-74 season. The Celtics finished with 56 regular season wins, but more importantly captured the NBA title. They did so by besting Kareem’s Milwaukee Bucks in a classic seven-game series where Dave left behind his most famous play, which accurately depicts his determination and style of play.

After poking the ball loose from Oscar Robertson, Cowens and the Big O got into a foot race for the ball. Dave started stumbling and then decided to just make a giant leap for the ball and skid across the floor for what seemed like a mile:

Dave_Cowens_dives_for_the_ball

Another title followed in 1976 over the Phoenix Suns, but that was the last great year for Cowens’ original gang of Celtics. Havlicek would soon retire, Paul Silas and White were traded, and a string of underwhelming stars were brought in. Big Red himself temporarily lost his fire the sport and took a one month sabbatical in the 1976-77 season.

However, by the 1979-80 season, the Celtics and Cowens had a return to glory. Teaming up with Larry Bird, Tiny Archibald, and Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, Boston won 61 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Dr. J’s 76ers proved a tad bit better and won the series in five games. That offseason, the Celtics made their swindle/trade with Golden State for Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

Perhaps Cowens could have stuck around for a chance to win a couple of more titles in his twilight. After all, he was just 31-years-old, had only played 10 seasons, and had just come off a year averaging 14 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Not bad at all for a starting center. So, surely he could put together three or four more seasons of good basketball as Parish’s back up.

Instead, Cowens chose to retire. At least temporarily.

He made a quirky return to the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1982-83 season at the age of 34 – he averaged eight points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. But Cowens was always a strange character. Cowens drove a taxicab during the late 1970s just for fun. He sold Christmas trees in his home-state of Kentucky during his 1976 sabbatical. And the fiery countenance he exhibited on the court transformed into an amazing sense of humor off of it.

But when he was on the court, heaven help you if you were the opposing team, or even worse, the referee…

Honors

NBA –
2x Champion (1974, 1976)
MVP (1973)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1973, 1975-’76)
All-Defensive 1st Team (1976)
2x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1975, 1980)
8x All-Star (1972-’78, 1980)
All-Star Game MVP (1973)
All-Rookie Team (1971)
Rookie of the Year (1971)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (766 games):
17.6 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG
.496 TS%, .460FG%, .783 FT%
17.0 PER, .140 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (89 games):
18.9 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG
.480 TS%, .451 FG%, .744 FT%
16.6 PER, .119 WS/48

 

Robert Parish

Born: August 30, 1953
Position: Center
Professional Career:
Golden State Warriors (NBA): 1976-’80
Boston Celtics (NBA): 1980-’94
Charlotte Hornets (NBA): 1994-’96
Chicago Bulls (NBA): 1996-’97

Robert Parish (Celtics Pride)
Robert Parish (Celtics Pride)

Robert Parish’s NBA career lasted longer than any player in history. He strung together 21 seasons and played in 1795 games between the regular season and playoffs. Naturally, luck plays a role in anyone being able to play for that long, but also credit Parish’s stringent training, yoga, and vegetarian diet for keeping him spry year after year.

Most of those years, of course, were spent with the Boston Celtics. From the 1980-81 season through the 1993-94 campaign, the Chief called Boston home. His presence alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale created what many think is the best frontcourt trio in NBA history. They have a good case given the trio of titles they captured together.

Parish, no doubt, was the lowest key of the three. He didn’t say much to begin with and his game was perhaps even quieter. He wasn’t prone to dazzling displays of athleticism, he never averaged over 20 points a game, and he didn’t swat shots into the 5th or 6th row.

But what Parish delivered certainly was constant and consistent. In his second NBA season (with the Golden State Warriors) in 1978, Parish scored 12.5 points per game. 16 years later in 1994, Parish at the age of 40 was still scoring 11.7 points a night. His defense and rebounding followed a similar ever-ready suit. Opposing centers rarely got the upper hand on the Chief who resolutely patrolled the paint and registered stifling resistance night after night.

For another perspective on Parish’s triumphant longevity, He was just a year younger than Bill Walton, his teammate on the 1986 Celtics. Walton entered the NBA in 1975, Parish in 1976. By the time Parish retired in 1997, Walton had been retired from the NBA for a decade and was in the midst of broadcasting playoff games that Parish was still appearing in. Parish was also just a year younger than George Gervin. Imagine the Ice Man still on an NBA roster in ’97. That’s the longevity of Parish.

Robert Parish schools Kareem

If there was anything “flashy” about Parish it was his insanely high-arching turn-around jumper. Already 7’0″, Parish lofting a shot from such a perch was impossible to block and he hit the shot an absurd amount. That shot enabled Parish to have games like a 31-point demolition of Detroit in the 1987 playoffs while making 10 of his 12 field goals, plus 11 of his 12 free throws.

The other patented Parish move was his one-handed, always-in-stride dunk. The Chief was an underrated finisher on the break since he never ran that fast, but he never stopped running so he could get down the court and finish with authority.

Notice how unfast Parish was running in that clip, but he kept a-movin’ and got the jam.  And at the age of 43 Parish was still doing his unfast floor trot to slam home dunks…

That’s the kind of ceaseless determination that defined the career of Robert Parish.

 

Honors

4x Champion (1981, 1984, 1986, 1997)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1982)
All-NBA 3rd Team (1989)
9x All-Star (1981-’87, 1990-’91)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (1611 games):
14.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.8 SPG
.571 TS%, .537 FG%, .721 FT%
19.2 PER, .154 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (184 games):
15.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 0.8 SPG
.547 TS%, .506 FG%, .722 FT%
16.6 PER, .121 WS/48