Thank you, Paul Pierce. For everything. From all of New England, from every casual basketball follower, from every die hard Celtics fan, we thank you.
The Los Angeles Clippers fell to the Utah Jazz, 104 -91, with the Jazz winning the series 4-3. And just like that, it’s over. The final curtain call on Paul Pierce’s storybook career has come.
Writing this is going to be hard. I cried when Paul pulled up at the Garden one last time and sunk that jumper we were all accustomed to seeing. I still get chills watching the video on YouTube many months after. Even though he wasn’t wearing green, he still got a standing ovation and it felt right. If hearing the “Thank you Paul” chants raining down from the rafters doesn’t put a lump in your throat, then you don’t know what Paul Pierce is. Paul Pierce is to Boston what Kobe is Los Angeles, or what Michael is to Chicago. Paul Pierce is THE Celtic of this generation.
If you don’t know who Paul Pierce is, get out from the rock you’ve been living under. Paul Anthony Pierce was a McDonalds All-American in high school and attended the University of Kansas. He was drafted tenth by the Boston Celtics in the 1998 draft and the rest is history. With the Celtics, he was a ten-time All-Star. Made four All-NBA teams over his career (three third team honors, one second). He is the leader in Free Throws made and Three Pointers made in the franchise and is only behind John Havlicek for Celtic’s all-time scoring. And of course, he is an NBA Finals MVP from the 2008 Championship team.
What Pierce did for Boston and the Celtics’ organization was God’s work. He brought excitement back to the parquet. He put his heart into every game he played wearing 34 in green and white. He brought basketball back to Boston. Paul Pierce was basically the city of Boston on the basketball court. He wasn’t the best, not the most athletic, but you best believe he would give it his all night in and night out. He was stabbed 11 times and still started every game the following season. 11 times. Someone took a knife and jabbed him 11 times and he still started, not come off the bench to get into the flow of things, STARTED ALL 82 GAMES. This discussion this year is resting players because they “need a day or two to rest” wrong. Yes. Because if someone gets stabbed and still manage to perform every game, your excuse goes in the trash (I’m looking at you, Lebron).
There are hallowed fabled stories in the Garden. From any of Bill Russell’s 11 rings to Bobby Orr’s iconic goal. Even Bird’s steal leading to the game winning layup. One hallowed tale from this century is when Paul ran out the tunnel in game 1 of the 2008 finals. I don’t give two shits if he faked the injury or not, that wasn’t the moment. Paul comes bounding out the locker room and immediately brings everyone to their feet. He goes directly to the table and finishes the night with 24. To fourth grader me, he was a superhero in that moment. In the later years, the superhero act started to fade, but he always had a knack for creating those moments that brought back my imagination of the mid-to-late 2000’s Pierce.
The most underrated superstar in any sport, ever, and that’s why Boston was the perfect home for him. No one really appreciated Paul’s game but us. Being born in the nineties, I grew up with Paul Pierce’s career. When I was introduced to basketball and watching the Celtics on TV, even as a five-year-old, you could tell there was something different with the guy. And there was. It wasn’t a “Mamba Mentality,” where he studied every move you did and knew when you were doing it, but it was the chip on his shoulder. The blood, sweat, and tears he left on the court. It attracted you. My two favorite Paul Pierce memories are the two (in my opinion) dirtiest “in your mouth” shot of all time. The better of the two was over Lebron. He did the signature one dribble pull up from distance and just let it fly. Nothing but net and Pierce let Lebron know what was up, as he talked his way all the way down the court, as he had done so many times before.
So, Paul, in conclusion. To my favorite player of all time, thank you for making me and so many others believe in something. Thank you for calling “game” time and time again. Thank you for making me fall in love with a sport. Thank you for showing us how to fight.