Pierce, KG: Nothing Compares to Sunday

BOSTON – According to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, nothing can compare to Sunday night.

That duo of future Hall of Famers capped their weekend by making their long-awaited return to TD Garden as members of the Brooklyn Nets. Though they sat on the opposing sideline, they were cheered as if they were playing for the Celtics. That’s what made this night so special for both of them.

“It’s not even close,” Garnett said after being asked to compare Sunday night to the biggest games he played in as a member of the Celtics. “To come back here and be showered like this… it’s not even close. Not even close.”

Paul Pierce claps as he watches his video tribute.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each took the time to look up and watch their video tributes Sunday night at TD Garden.
Steve Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

The showering began far before tip-off even arrived at 6:30 p.m. Fans spilled into the Garden and brought an energy level comparable to a playoff game. They delivered deafening cheers as Pierce and Garnett were announced during starting lineups. They roared with chants of “Paul Pierce!” and “KG!” as tip-off approached, and they carried over into the first quarter. Deep breaths were taken with every shot attempt by either player, as fans waited to erupt with an ovation for their beloved former C’s.

It was clear from the beginning that this night wasn’t about the game at hand. It was about a celebration. Sunday night was a celebration of 15 years of blood, sweat and tears that Paul Pierce gave to the Celtics organization. It was about anything being possible while Garnett wore a green and white.

Sunday night, as Brad Stevens stated perfectly this weekend, was bigger than the game itself.

As expected, the Celtics organization honored Pierce and Garnett with individual video tributes during the first quarter. Every set of eyes in the building, including those of Pierce and Garnett, was fixated on the jumbotron as each player’s career in Boston was summed up in a minute-long montage.

“Just all the great moments,” Pierce said of the thoughts that raced through his mind as he gazed up at his tribute. “From on the court to off the court, just all the great moments. That’s all you can think of. That’s pretty much what the videos showed.”

Sunday’s videos, as Pierce and Garnett admitted, nearly pushed each player to tears.

“It was tough. It was tough for me to swallow,” Pierce said. “I was probably about five seconds from shedding (tears). Five seconds, I’ll admit to it. No words that can really describe the shower of love here.”

“I had lumps in my throat,” said Garnett, “and I kept them under control and I focused as much as I could on the game and not take away from it, but man, this was over the top. I couldn’t put that into words.”

No words, nor any videos, could possibly sum up the memories that these two made in Boston. “Some things,” as Garnett said, “last forever.”

Memories that hold that much significance can cause a flood of emotions. That certainly happened Sunday night, as Pierce and Garnett were emotionally unstable throughout the game. They were unable to push aside their thoughts and go to work on the court they called home for so long.

“I was telling Kevin and everybody this was the toughest game I ever had to play,” Pierce said. “Tougher than any championship game, or any Game 7. This game was just really hard to focus and concentrate on what was at hand.”

Garnett added, “You see, like Paul said, the endless friendships through the place; the security guards, the ball boys, everybody that shows their appreciation. By far the hardest day that I’ve had to focus.”

While Pierce returned home for the first time, Garnett had some experience to lean back on. He returned to Minnesota as a member of the Celtics on Feb. 8, 2009, after spending 12 years with the Timberwolves organization. That night was tough for Garnett, but it does not compare to what took place on Sunday.

“This is bigger than Minnesota, even when I went back to Minnesota,” Garnett said. “Minnesota wasn’t like this.”

That’s because what Garnett and Pierce did together in Boston will never be forgotten. They are etched into the long line of Celtics history with a championship banner by their side.

Banners last forever in Boston. Pierce and Garnett may have returned to TD Garden and donned black jerseys with “Brooklyn” written across their chests, but they will always be Boston Celtics.

Nothing can compare to that.