Golden Basketball Magazine
August 31, 2020

"Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them." 

Julius Erving

This issue's video: 1972 USA vs USSR Olympics Basketball Final

Highway robbery in Munich

Tiger Den Basketball

LSU Post-Season Games - 1982

A rebuilding year saw the Tigers make the NIT

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NBA Finals - Game 7: 1969

Boston Celtics @ Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers won the first two games at home but still let the title slip through their fingers.

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Basketball Quiz

Whose number did the New Orleans Hornets retire at halftime of their very first game?

Robert Parish's Road to the NBA - 1
The Big Three: Larry Bird, Kevin McBride, and Robert Parish:
The Best Frontcourt in the History of Basketball
, Peter May (1994)
Robert Parish went to an all-black school, Union in Shreve­port LA, which had both the junior and senior high classes in the same building. Parish ran some track, usually the 880. He played football and baseball. But basketball?
"I never liked it," he said. "I never had any interest in basket­ball whatsoever. I never even played it. If it wasn't for my junior high school coach, I would not be where I am. He lite­rally forced me to go out for the team."
That man is Coleman Kidd ... He was the basketball coach at Union Junior High School in the late 1960s and he kept wondering who this tall youngster was whom he saw walking by the school every day.

Robert Parish
"I figured he must be going to work," Kidd said. "He was exceptionally tall. I started asking around and I was told he was going to the Hollywood elementary school. He was in the sixth grade. I couldn't believe it. Sixth grade and I had to look up to him. The only thing I could get out of him was 'Yes, sir' or 'No, sir.' I asked him if he was coming to Union. 'Yes, sir.' Are you going to play basketball? 'No, sir.' Why not? 'Don't know how, sir.' Ever played? 'No, sir.' I told him, 'I'm Coach Kidd and I am going to look you up next year.'"
The next year, Parish arrived at Union and Kidd was there, ready for his new center. But his new center, now 6-4, still wasn't interested. Parish had told Kidd he would come to practice, but when the club gathered there was no sign of him. Kidd reminded Parish of his agreement and mildly admonished the youngster that he had better not continue to be a no-show. Parish continued to be a no-show.
Kidd then led Parish into the locker room and produced a small, half-inch-thick oak pad­dle, which the shop teacher had made for him. He made Parish bend over so he could get "better leverage." Then Kidd said, "I warmed his pants real good. He rubbed his backside when I was finished."
And the next time the junior high school basketball team gathered, Parish was there. Kidd was so pleased he even let Parish wear cutoff blue jeans instead of basketball shorts. There weren't any around that fit, anyway.
"He gave me a couple of good, strong whacks and said, 'I expect to see you here tomor­row,'" Parish said. "And then I decided to come out. Back then, you could do that stuff."
"We had our way with the students back then," Kidd said. "The parents expected you to do it and never complained or asked questions."
Now he had Parish. But he soon began to wonder if this was a case of "Be careful what you wish for because you might get it." Parish wasn't kidding about his utter lack of bas­ketball skills or knowledge. He may as well have spent his first twelve years in Antarctica.
"I really didn't have a clue about the game," Parish said. "They threw me the ball and I started to run with it. And that's only when I was able to catch it. A lot of times it would hit me in the face or go right through my hands. I mean, I was bad."
Kidd said Parish's skills were as bad as Parish described them. Maybe worse. He was forced to use Parish only in late-game, blowout situations. In his first year of organized basketball, Robert Parish, perennial NBA All-Star and future Hall of Famer, was strictly a garbage-time player.
"I was so disappointed," Kidd said. "I'm saying to myself, 'Here is a boy that could go places, but he just doesn't have the skills. Or the potential.' He couldn't catch it. He could­n't dribble it. He was clumsy. He had hard hands and no coordination and I almost gave up on him. I did everything I could. Jump-roping drills. Everything. I'd make him take a bas­ketball home. Then he started to show a little promise at the end of the seventh grade, and after playing all summer in the city he came back and was a totally different player. He was phenomenal."
So good, in fact, that Parish played for Kidd only one more year before he was promoted to the Union varsity in the ninth grade. As a freshman at Union, he led the school to the state semifinals. He did the same thing as a sophomore. But he did it while playing only with black teammates and only against all-black competition. The following year, a court order changed everything. In an attempt to integrate the schools, Union High was closed and turned into a career vocational center. Its student body was dispersed, mostly to Woodlawn.
Few were happy with forced integration. For the previous two years, Shreveport had had a "freedom of choice" option that allowed blacks to attend the white schools. But few did. Before that, blacks went to one of three schools (Union, Bethune, or Booker T. Wash­ington) and whites attended one of four schools (Woodlawn, Fair Park, Captain Shreve, and Byrd). The school system consisted of two entire, separate, and insulated worlds whose paths rarely crossed. Cliff Roberts, the point guard at Woodlawn in the first year of integration, had never heard of Woodlawn until they played together at Wood­lawn.
Freedom of choice had, however, allowed a trailblazer named Woodlawn to becom one of the first blacks to play for a previously all-white school in Shreveport or anywhere in northern Louisiana. Russell had to a wait a year at Woodlawn before he could play, but when he did his team won the state title in 1968-69. He played with Parish in college and later coached Woodlawn to a state title.
"It could not have opened up without Melvin Russell," Woodlawn coach Ken Ivy re­called. "By the time Robert got there, we had been through all the stuff - people refusing to feed us, things like that. Melvin made it possible. And it was kids like Robert that came along after that that made it go."
Parish didn't want to leave Union. It was a short walk from home. He was comfortable there, but it was closing and Woodlawn was more than a mile away.
"None of us wanted to be there," Parish said. "It was a huge transition. I would have preferred to stay where I was. I didn't like being broken up and separated. I resented that." ...
"It was a very, very traumatic year for everyone, blacks and white," said Roberts. "The blacks didn't like it. The whites didn't like it. We had never been exposed to blacks and they had never been exposed to whites. There was some violence, but not too much. On the team, it was OK. But beyond that, there was no camaraderie whatsoever. Basketball was the only time we were together. And it was hard for me because none of my friends from Fair Park was there. I became a Woodlawn Knight. But I was still a Fair Park Indian at heart and always will be."
To be continued ...