Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Parish, Worthy head to Hall

By Hal Bock
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Robert Parish and James Worthy played against each other during the fierce Celtics-Lakers rivalry of the 1980s and were among the 50 greatest players in NBA history. On Monday, they became teammates, elected together to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I'm still floating, trying to grasp the impact," Parish said. "When I'm inducted I'll think of all my teammates."

Also chosen for the basketball shrine were Meadowlark Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters, NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd, longtime Louisiana Tech women's coach Leon Barmore, Italian player Dino Meneghin and the late Chick Hearn, who broadcast 3,338 consecutive Laker games.

The seven were selected from a record group of 30 finalists and will be inducted in early September in Springfield, Mass.

Parish holds the NBA record for seasons (21) and games (1,611). He spent 14 seasons with the Celtics and became a star in Boston after six seasons with Golden State.

"It would have been a short career if I had not been traded to Boston," he said. "I was rejuvenated in Boston."

Teamed with Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Kelvin McHale, Parish gave Boston a formidable front court and the Celtics won titles in 1981, 1984 and 1986. A nine-time All-Star, he holds the NBA record for defensive rebounds (10,117) and his 14,715 rebounds are sixth best in history.

Parish said none of that would have happened except for his junior high school coach, Coleman Kidd.

"Growing up, I didn't like basketball," he said. "I played football and baseball and ran some track. Height wasn't a problem. It was interest. He came and got me every day. He said 'You're coming with me.' You could be heavy-handed then. Today, you can't get away with that."

Parish arrived in Boston in 1980. Two years later, Worthy showed up with the Lakers after leading North Carolina to the NCAA tournament championship over Georgetown. He was chosen the tournament's outstanding player after hitting 14 of 17 shots in the title game and then dribbling out the final seconds after Freddie Brown threw an errant pass to him.

That game was played in the Superdome, site of Monday night's NCAA title game between Kansas and Syracuse.

"The only reason I played basketball was to get a scholarship," Worthy said. "My parents worked hard to put my brothers through school and I didn't want them to have to do that for me."

Worthy helped the Lakers to NBA championships in 1985, 1987 and 1988 and was MVP of the 1988 Finals.

He saluted Hearn, whose widow accepted for the longtime broadcaster. "Chick gave me my nickname, 'Big Game James,"' Worthy said.

Hearn invented the term "slam dunk," and never missed a game from Nov. 21, 1965 through Dec. 16, 2001. He is a member of the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame.

Barmore had a record of 576-87 in 20 seasons as women's coach at Louisiana Tech. His .869 winning percentage was the best on women's college basketball history.

Meneghin is widely considered one of the great international players. He played in four Olympics for Italy and led his club to a record 12 Cup of Champions finals and a record seven titles.

The 74-year-old Lloyd was elected in the veterans category. He was the first black player in the NBA, debuting with the Washington Capitals in 1950. "It was a monumental thing to happen," he said. "I had no idea I'd be drafted to play in the NBA.

He said his parents were at his first game and recalled his mother answering hecklers who wondered if a black could play in the league. "She said, 'Trust me, he can play."'

Lemon was known as the Clown Prince of Basketball for his antics with the Globetrotters. His age is unknown and he wasn't confessing it Monday.

"I've been playing a whole lot of years," he said. "I don't know how many. They won't tell me. I played 9,984 games, 16 from 10,000."

Worthy raised his eyebrows at that statistic.

"James would have to play 100 games a year for 100 years to catch me," Lemon said.

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