February 14, 2018
Paul Pierce’s Greatness
Through the Eyes of a Lakers Fan
I had a love/hate relationship with Paul Pierce throughout his career. First off, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Paul Pierce and his basketball career. That being said, as a Lakers fan, I cannot forget the wheelchair game. Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Paul Pierce fell to the ground after teammate Kendrick Perkins appeared to awkwardly bump into his leg. Pierce was carried off the court and placed in a wheelchair before being rolled into the locker room. Then, he jogged out of the locker room tunnel less than a minute and a half of play later! He went on to hit a flurry of three pointers, helping his team win the game and the series, earning the Finals MVP award. That moment bothered me because it made the NBA look scripted and fake, but I will not let this single moment define his legendary body of work.
Living in Maine, every Celtics game was aired on the local sports channel, so I watched him many times. Pierce only finished in the top 10 in MVP voting once (7th in 2009) and that was the only year he made the All-NBA Second Team, but those accolades do not represent the impact he had on the league. The Celtics great played in two NBA Finals, and I don’t believe that he was the best overall player on either of those teams (Kevin Garnett in 2008 and Rajon Rondo in 2010). He did, however, have one skill that his teams would have suffered without: clutch scoring. Pierce hit SO many clutch shots in his career. Whether it was regular season game-winning step backs or finals daggers, Pierce thrived when his team needed him. At the end of the game, his opponents were scared when he touched the ball. Pierce remained clutch all the way to the end of his career, hitting numerous game-winners for the Nets and the Wizards. He also seemed to be at his best when his teams were facing elimination or when they were ending someone’s season. Paul added some spectacular defensive playoffs series guarding Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Pierce stepped up in the biggest moments, and his peers respected him as one of the best.
Pierce’s competitive fire was also important. He embraced his role in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, building a hate for L.A. This was the last real rivalry we have seen in the NBA. Today, NBA players are all friends. They train together and have dinner with opponents after games. He and Kobe attacked one another every game and they pushed each other to improve in the offseason. Just like Kobe, Paul knew how to build a storyline and carry a city on his back. These two guys loved to work hard and they loved the game. They liked the spotlight, but they enjoyed winning much more.
Pierce was also loyal. He stayed with the Celtics through the thick and thin, and he never even thought of leaving to build a super team like many stars do today. He only left because the organization decided he was not part of their rebuilding process.
Pierce was hated by Lakers fans, beloved by Celtics fans, respected by his peers, and a brother to his teammates. For all of these reasons I am grateful for Paul Pierce, and I feel lucky to have seen him at his best. Paul, I always appreciated you, even if I was rooting against you the whole time. Looking at that number 34 in the rafters will forever bring me back to my youth. Thank you for all the memories!
Jeff Pulver – ATG Sports
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