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The time Robert Parish refused to put up with Michael Jordan

Mar 9, 2012, 6:37 PM EDT

robert parish Bulls Getty Images

There is a fantastic story up at looking at the end of the first “Big Three” in Boston — Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

McHale and Bird finished their careers as Celtics, but people often forget that Parrish spent two years in Charlotte then went on to the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls — the middle season of Michael Jordan’s post-baseball, second threepeat with the Bulls.

By this point Jordan was an established leader whose style was intimidation and pressure. Jordan was the ultimate alpha male who let you get away with nothing.

Parish had been through too much for that, as he tells the story.

In one of his first practices with the Bulls, Parish botched one of the plays and was amused to find Jordan jawing at him just inches from his face.

“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ ” Parish recalled. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.”

I imagine Jordan tells that story differently.

Parish played sparingly for that Bulls team — he got in only 43 regular season games and two playoff games — then retired, but with his fourth ring. We will always think of him as a Celtic, but he has at least one good Bulls story, it turns out.

  1. yahmule - Mar 10, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Jordan has always been a giant egomaniac and remains one to this day. The constant enabling sure didn’t help matters. If you breathed near him they called a foul and he could mug people with impunity on the other end. The NBA and all their sponsors knew which side of their bread was buttered.

    • sommerday - Jun 11, 2012 at 8:03 AM

      @yahmule: THANK YOU!
      I used to see that (breath/no touch fouls on Jordan) all the time, but most people were so in love with Jordan they couldn’t understand what I was saying. Half of Jordan’s points were from free-throws.
      In some book on Jordan, that the NBA referees had his personal phone# and no matter what time it was Jordan ALWAYS took the refs call and was their BFF.
      It was during this period that I gave up on the integrity of NBA foul calling.

    • lbrad2001 - Jun 17, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      While it’s true that Jordan got away with a lot of fouls he also got mugged a lot without fouls being called. Just look back at the Pistons and Celtics beating him up in the late 80’s. Current stars like Lebron, Kobe, and D-Wade get fouled for minor or incidental contact that was completely ignored in Jordan’s day. Just watch some of the old game film on youtube.

  2. hoopsmccann - Mar 10, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    It’s obvious that some of the young whippersnappers that were raised on chewing Jordan’s jockstrap never watched much of Robert Parrish, one third of the greatest and toughest frontcourts ever to play in the NBA (and I’m a Laker fan). Guess you didn’t see him literally duking it out with Bill Laimbeer, Rodman, etc. in the playoffs against the the real “Bad Boys” team – the team that kicked Jordan’s ass every year for years and actually helped make the Bulls what they became. Boston did the same for Detroit. In fact, when did his primadonnass ever get in a real fight with anyone? The Bulls were incredibly talented and well coached, but in a street fight I’d take the 80’s Celtics and Pistons over anyone. I recently watched some of my old tapes of the classic 80’s playoff matchups and the difference in tenacity and physicality was incredible compared to todays’ game. So in conclusion I ask anyone who has the benefit of 40 years of watching NBA playoffs, how many of those 6 trophys would the Bulls have if they played in the 80’s? One? None? The 90’s was the weakest decade in the NBA with the only other really great team being Houston with Olajuwan, who the Bulls never played for the title. But Houston did sweep the team that beat the Bulls in the playoffs (Orlando). Any questions?

    • willhnic - May 18, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      Respectfully disagree to your point that Jordan and the Bulls won outside the *tough* play years in the NBA. Everyone knows the early 90’s were just as rough. It was just that Chicago learned how to play through it and win with grace and style. Rodman, Barkley, Malone, Oakley of the early 90s…they are no nicer than the “Bad Boys” of the 80s. Let’s not forget how the Bulls in 91-93 played through the hard fouls to win and decimate the Pistons. Remember how they hard fouled Jordan and Pippen and still got swept that first year to a Championship? Let’s not have selective memory here. That first Bulls championship team had to fight to win that first ring…and that was one of the reasons why that run was so impressive. Because no one thought they could “fight back”.

    • connaniii - Aug 8, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      Hey Hoops, sorry to make you aware you weren’t the only one watching, I too saw those games
      I had cable back then and used to get the whole load of Bulls’ gamed on T.N.T.Jordan was unstoppable in the nineties…Kobe, are you listening?

  3. lucky5934 - Mar 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Oh geez… Ok, I suppose Game of Death counts as a movie, albeit a broken movie that includes some doubles to make up for the tragic passing of Bruce Lee. But if ANYONE considers what Kareem did in that movie as Karate, then my impression of karate hit the crapper. My 4th grade students can do those moves and they don’t even take Karate. But for arguement’s sake, ONE seven footer (7’2 actually) who can kick slightly above his waist, does not mean Robert Parish (or any other 7 foot karate “expert”) was such a bad a$$ at the twilight of his career that Jordan was terrified of him. Parish was an overly confident guy who paid his dues as the 3rd or 4th option on a very talented Celtic’s dynasty, and was now (err at the time of this story) just fading away into retirement with the Bulls with the hopes of winning one more ring. I mean seriously, why would Jordan worry excessively about an Old Timer who was being beat out for playing time by Luc Longley and Bill Wennington. As I said before, he probably was not interested in pushing a player to be better who was more concerned about Jordan’s approach than he was about his point to make the play.

    And for those who said Parrish would kick my butt? Yeah, I doubt that. I have seen Game of Death. I know how to defend a seven footer who knows karate. I can thank Bruce Lee for that. haha

  4. tominma - Mar 12, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    I wonder if Bill Russell ever yelled at HIS team mates. Afterall, more rings than fingers is pertty good doncha think? Ive always thought that Russell was a better man than he was a basketball player. You can call me biased if you like!

  5. lucky5934 - Mar 13, 2012 at 6:30 AM

    Yes, Bill Russell was a successful player in his approach to his team in his “Era” as was Michael Jordan in his. Apples to Oranges in comparisons…. More than one effective style of leadership. Russell’s “Era” was not motivated by money and fame the way players of late have been. They played hard because they could and wanted to. Jordan’s brash in your face style only worked because he led by example. If he choked or passed up shots as often as Lebron did, his style would not worked whatsoever.

  6. 1historian - Apr 10, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Jordan was the greatest ever and he was a total jerk, and he still is today from all accounts. I heard about the thing with Cartwright years ago but this is the first I heard about the Chief. I believe it.

    85-86 Celtics against the 95-96 Bulls? THAT would have been a good series. Parish, McHale, Bird, Ainge & D.J. plus Walton and Sichting (sp?) coming off the bench.

    I pick the Celtics in 7 – 2 O.T.s.

    FYI – I am a Celtics fan. And I remember Dean Smith’s having said that Len Bias was a better athlete than Jordan.

    • willhnic - May 18, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      Too bad better athlete doesn’t mean better execution. There are a ton of “better athletes” on the bench in the NBA and NFL.

  7. 1historian - May 14, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    The story is also told of Jordan’s getting in Bill Cartwright’s face.


  8. Miami Heat Devotion - May 21, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Lebron is way cooler than Jordan just because he’s a nice guy and a gentleman in addition to being an awesome basketball player. That doesn’t mean he lacks killer instinct, he is still younger at 27 than Jordan was when he won his first championship at 28

    • electstat - May 23, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      And he still doesn’t have that ring.

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