He is equal parts Kentucky royalty and NBA rank-and-file, a former blue collar big man who played for two of the most storied basketball traditions the game has ever known. How many players can say they’ve won a national championship playing for the Kentucky Wildcats, and then gone on to win an NBA crown with the Boston Celtics?
Rick Robey can.
He can also say that he’s won a state high school title at Brother Martin in Louisiana, and added an NIT championship to his Kentucky haul, effectively hitting for the cycle in terms of bringing home the hardware. And Robey is a legend in the Bluegrass State for his remarkable collegiate career, which culminated with that national championship and with him being named a consensus NCAA All-American Second Team selection (1978).
Growing up, Robey moved frequently, with stops in Florida, Tennessee and Alaska before his family settled in New Orleans. By then he was big, strong, and quickly making a name for himself on the basketball court – so much so that, by his senior season at Brother Martin, Robey was being recruited by almost all of the top programs in the country. He quickly narrowed his choices to Notre Dame and Kentucky, eventually settling on the Wildcats…
Robey on joining the Celtics:
It was funny, because about a month and a half into the season we played a game against the Celtics. I went up against Dave Cowens in that game, who was the player-coach at the time. After the game Dave told me that the Celtics were going to try their best to make a trade for me. He said it would be at some point in the next month to month-and-a-half. And by golly, come January I got the call that I’d just been traded to the Celtics.
Robey on the addition of Larry Bird:
I think once they were able to get Bird signed, and then put the McHale-Parish deal together for Joe Barry Carroll, things really started to roll. Bird was the trigger point for the turnaround, no question about it, but having those other guys meant a lot, too. And don’t forget, Red Auerbach was also great at making moves for perfect role players, guys like Danny Ainge and Gerald Henderson and M.L. Carr and Cedric Maxwell. Just a great group of guys and great players.