And he followed the plan, did what he and everyone else in the Celtics' locker room said they were going to do. He did nothing. "I found out that I was very good at doing nothing," he says. "I wasn't bored. I traveled, went to the islands, lived on island time. Very nice. I read. I saw my four kids. I visited my parents."
He sold off a few cars, managing just fine with two. He sold his place in the Boston suburbs in 1999, leaving the cold to live in the second house he had bought, in Charlotte. Divorced in '88 after four years of marriage to the mother of his youngest son, he had a girlfriend but decided he was meant to live alone. He was good company for himself. When someone called Parish a recluse, his mother, Ada, would say, "Robert's not a recluse—he's just home. You want to find him, he's right there. He just likes to be home."
A funny thing about the locker room dream, though. Parish discovered that he was the only one of the former Celtics teammates living it. Where were all the other malcontents, the complainers and whiners? They were back in basketball, every one of them. "Larry didn't surprise me," Parish says. "I always figured he'd wind up somewhere, basketball was so much a part of him. The rest of those guys? They all surprised me. Kevin, I never thought he'd come back. Maxwell? The way he hated practice? Bill Walton had a terrible stutter. Now he's a commentator? Danny, a coach? I never thought he'd have the temperament for that."
One by one the others had returned. Bird was first the coach, then the president of basketball operations of the Indiana Pacers. McHale was in charge of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Carr was running the Celtics, and Maxwell was calling Boston's games on radio. Oops, Carr was out. Ainge resigned as the Phoenix Suns' coach, then became the boss of the Celtics. Maxwell still was calling the games. Walton seemingly was everywhere.
Curious about the successes and failures of his former teammates, Parish began to follow the games again. Clifford Ray, the former Warriors center and a friend, enlisted him to work for a week in the summer of 2001 at a big man's camp in Bradenton, Fla. Then another summer and another. Parish was touching a basketball again. His body had taken 21 years of low-post abuse, but now it was fine.
In 2003, on the first ballot, he was elected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. That brought him back into the spotlight. He found that he did not mind it there.
"We had a dentists convention here," says Derek Boyle of Sports Identity in Boston. "They were looking for a former Celtics player to speak. They wanted Larry, but he wasn't available. We suggested Robert, even though we'd never worked with him. We contacted his accountant, and Robert agreed to come. The dentists loved him, and he liked doing it. We set up a relationship."
Advised by his mother since retirement to "get out there and present yourself," he decided at last to do that. Parish suddenly was making furniture commercials in Boston, talking with fans as part of the NBA Legends campaign at the Finals, singing and dancing in those NBA commercials with the Black-Eyed Peas.
Now he is looking for a job in the game.
"I'm 50 years old—that's too young to be retired," he says. "I could be a general manager for some team. I could be a coach. I could be a broadcaster. Whatever comes up. This is what I know. This is what I can do. This is my passion."