Archive 75

Paul Pierce

By John Schuhmann·

The Boston Celtics are the most storied franchise in NBA history, winners of more games than any other NBA team, along with 17 championships.

With that success, there have been more than 30 Hall of Famer players who've worn Celtics green. Within that group, there are a handful of franchise cornerstones. In the 1950s and '60s it was Bob Cousy and Bill Russell. They were followed by John Havlicek and Dave Cowens. In the '80s, it was the big three -- Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

And when the Celtics made it back to the mountaintop in the 2000s, Paul Pierce was leading the way.

Five players rank in the top 10 in total points, rebounds and assists in Celtics franchise history:  Bird, Cowens, Havlicek, Russell and Pierce.

Growing up in California, Pierce was a Los Angeles Lakers fan. But after three years at the University of Kansas, he was selected by the Celtics with the 10th pick in the 1998 Draft. And he made an immediate impact, averaging 16.5 points and shooting 41% from 3-point range as a rookie.

The Celtics knew from the get-go that they had themselves a first-round steal. And in this game from April 1999, the rookie gets a season-high 31 points at Miami.  

Paul Pierce as a rookie

Overlooked by nine teams in the ’98 Draft, Pierce felt he had something to prove. So, he entered the league with swagger.   

Pierce increased his scoring average in each of his next three seasons, earning his first All-Star selection while averaging 26.1 points in the 2001-02 season. And it was March 2001 when Pierce was given one of the best nicknames in NBA history.

After scoring 42 points on 13-for-19 shooting in L.A., a Lakers player pulled a reporter aside in the locker room ...  "Take this down. My name is Shaquille O'Neal, and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth. Quote me on that, and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth."

A year later, “The Truth” made his first trip to the postseason. And in his first playoff series, he sent the defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers home with 46 points (shooting 8-for-10 from 3-point range) in the series-deciding Game 5.

The Celtics reached the conference finals that year (2002), with Pierce averaging 24.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists over their 16 playoff games.

Pierce was, simply, a bucket-getter. He described his game as "a bowl of gumbo. You put a little bit of everything in there."

And when his hands were on the ball, Pierce was cookin’.

Paul Pierce, a Celtics legend

With the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Pierce and the Celtics saw the biggest winning percentage jump in NBA history, going from 24-58 (.293) in 2006-07 to a league-best 66-16 (.805) in '07-08. But they needed seven games to advance out of each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Game 7 of the conference semifinals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers went down to the wire. Pierce came up huge, scoring 41 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field and 11-for-12 from the line.

Paul Pierce versus Lakers

One month later, the Celtics were NBA champions and Pierce was the Finals MVP, having averaged 21.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists as Boston eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Pierce was a 10-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection. He ranks 16th on the all-time scoring list, he had his No. 34 retired by the Celtics in 2018 and was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

He was more than what you saw on the court. He was a leader in the locker room and on the practice floor.

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett Paul Pierce MVP of the NBA Finals Paul Pierce with some Celtics legends

The best highlights of Pierce’s career?  They likely include more poster dunks and more game-winning jumpers than you remember. Sit back and enjoy the Top 34 plays from No. 34’s career.

Pierce made 13 shots for the lead in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. Over the 26 years for which we have play-by-play data, only six players have made more.

Pierce played 15 seasons in Boston, logging 45,768 total minutes (including playoffs) for the Celtics. Only Havlicek and Russell played more. He then became somewhat of a mercenary for the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and LA Clippers. He continued to make huge plays, blocking Kyle Lowry at the buzzer to win Game 7 in the 2014 first round, and banking in a buzzer-beater to win Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Paul Pierce was The Truth, and he called game.