Worthy, Parrish await induction

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Opponents in one of the NBA's fiercest rivalries, James Worthy and Robert Parish are on the same team now: incoming members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

They will be inducted Friday night, 16 years after they met for the third and final time in an NBA championship series -- Worthy with the Los Angeles Lakers and Parish with the Boston Celtics.

Five others will join them as new members -- 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 straight Lakers' games.

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Hearn was at the microphone for all the matchups between Worthy and Parish, describing how they ran the floor, hit jumpers and rebounded aggressively for the dominant teams of the 1980s.

''Hatred would be a strong word. We really respected each other,'' Worthy said of Parish and the Celtics. ''I liked the game the way it was then. It was more respect for your opponents and your own teammates.''

Of course, the teams had other stars. But Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson of the Lakers and Larry Bird and Kevin McHale of the Celtics already are in basketball's shrine.

Now Worthy and Parish, who both were outstanding in critical games, get their turn.

''He gave me my nickname, 'Big Game James,''' Worthy said of Hearn.

Hearn also introduced radio and television fans to now standard phrases such as ''slam dunk,'' of which Parish and Worthy had many, and ''airball,'' of which they had few.

Hearn didn't miss a game from Nov. 21, 1965, through Dec. 16, 2001. He died on Aug. 5, 2002 at age 85 after a fall at his home.

Parish, who turned 50 last Saturday, entered the NBA in 1976 with Golden State, six years before the Lakers drafted Worthy, 42, out of North Carolina.

''I first saw him when I was in eighth grade when he was playing for Centenary and they played UNC-Charlotte with a center named Cedric 'Cornbread' Maxwell,'' who also played for Boston, Worthy said of Parish. ''Robert Parish was a 7-foot center and really exemplified everything that I wanted to be as a player at the time.''

Their paths crossed again in the NBA in 1982 and they met in the Finals for the first time in 1984. Boston won then, but Los Angeles beat the Celtics in the 1985 and 1987 Finals.

Worthy averaged 17.6 points in his 12 NBA seasons, all with Los Angeles. He won titles in 1985, 1987 and 1988, being named the series MVP in the last one. He retired after the 1993-94 season.

Parish played his first four seasons with Golden State then followed his Celtics career with two years at Charlotte and one at Chicago and ended with a 14.5-point average.

Parish holds NBA record with 10,117 defensive rebounds, 21 seasons and 1,611 games.

''I'm really proud to receive basketball's highest award,'' Parish said. ''I'm proud and excited.''

He has reason to be.

''He was a great defender, the best rebounder ever in the game from the defensive point of view,'' Worthy said. ''And a scorer.''

Barmore was 576-87 in 20 seasons as women's coach at Louisiana Tech, an .869 winning percentage, the best in women's college basketball history.

Meneghin was a top international player, competing in four Olympics for Italy and leading his club to a record seven Cup of Champions titles.

Lloyd, 74, was elected in the veterans category. He was the first black player in the NBA, debuting with the Washington Capitals in 1950.

Lemon was known as the ''clown prince of basketball'' for his comic performances with the Globetrotters.