Today we profile Paul Pierce. Find out how Pierce got his nickname, about the stabbing that not only almost ended his career but his life as well, and about his Truth Fund that does much good in the community.
Paul Pierce was born and grew up in Inglewood, California. Pierce was the star of his Inglewood High School basketball team having started all four years. Paul also participated in the 1995 slam dunk competition along with fellow future NBA all-star Vince Carter.
Pierce went to the University of Kansas and played there 3 seasons before becoming an early entry in the NBA Draft. Pierce averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his three seasons at the University of Kansas, and earned MVP honors in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in both 1997 and 1998. He majored in Crime and Delinquency Studies. In the draft, he inexplicably slid to the 10th pick where the Celtics very happily grabbed him.
Pierce got his nickname, "The Truth," from Shaquille O'Neal. After a Lakers' victory over Boston in March of 2001, O'Neal pulled a Boston reporter over and gestured toward his notepad. "Take this down," said O'Neal. "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." And from that time on, Pierce has been called The Truth.
Pierce has been known for his toughness. He rarely misses a game or a practice. In September of 2000, just minutes after entering a Boston dance club in the early morning hours, he was jumped from behind by three men. He was sucker-punched, a bottle was broken over his right eye, a knife was plunged through the back of his leather jacket six inches deep into his body and he received 10 other stab wounds and he required lung surgery. Three weeks later he was back at practice for the Celtics and played the entire 2000-2001 season, averaging 25.3 points.
In 2004, in a game against the Blazers, Pierce hit the game winner. This in itself wasn't so amazing as he had done it many times before. But, the night before he had been fouled hard by Amare Stoudamire and lost several teeth. He spent 7 hours in the dentist's chair having them repaired and still started the game against the Blazers that night, hitting the game winner.
Last season, his had bursitis in his elbow. At times, his elbow was very swollen and he had to have it drained several times before games. But yet, he played through the pain and didn't miss games or practice because of it until Doc shut him down at the end of the year after the Celtics were definitely out of the playoffs.
Pierce has not only played for the Celtics but has also represented the USA on several teams. He participated in the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival for the West Team that finished 1-3 and in fourth place, averaged 9.5 ppg., 4.0 rpg., and 2.0 apg. He was a member of the 1996 USA U21 World Championship Qualifying Team that also played an exhibition game against the 1996 USA Basketball Senior National Team and almost pulled off a monumental upset. The USA collegians led the NBA stars by as many 17 points, however the USA seniors rallied late to capture a narrow 96-90 decision.
He was amember of the 1996 USA U21 World Championship Qualifying Team that finished 5-0 and won the gold medal, averaged 9.4 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 1.2 apg., 1.6 spg. He was Member of the 2002 USA World Championship Team that finished 6-3 and in sixth place, averaged 19.8 ppg., 4.6 rpg. and 3.9 apg. He very unfairly was made a scapegoat for this team's failure. He wanted to redeem himself and made it no secret that he wanted to be part of the team being put together this past year for the next Olympics. On March 5, 2006, he was named to the the 2006-2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team program. However he couldn't compete for a spot for this year's Worlds due to the surgery on his elbow to prepare for next season.
Pierce is also very active in the community and does much to help others. He was raised by his mother, Lorraine Hosey and every year at Thanksgiving, he puts on a big dinner for the single mothers in the area in her honor.
The Truth Fund was founded by Boston Celtics co-captain Paul Pierce in May of 2002. It was developed as a means for Paul to streamline all his charitable efforts and make an impact on the lives of disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston area as well as in his hometown of Inglewood, CA.
The mission of the Truth Fund is to provide educational and life-enriching opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Paul's vision of the Fund is to ensure that opportunities are available for young people to recognize their dreams through mentoring programs, technology and other educational needs as well as fostering stable and safe environments for children.
Pierce along with Baron Davis hosted "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a celebrity All-Star weekend of events raising funds for charity. This event was hosted by NBA legend Magic Johnson for the past 20 years and was handed over to Davis and Pierce for the first time this year. The proceeds went to The Truth Fund, The Baron Davis Foundation and The Magic Johnson Foundation.
Pierce's attitude and style of play have won him praise from the Celtics' owners and even from Red Auerbach himself. "He's one of my favorite kids," said Auerbach, the former Boston coach and general manager who helped develop Hall of Famers Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird. "Pierce is a typical Celtics kid. All he wants to do is win." Auerbach himself was on hand to present the first annual Red Auerbach Award to Paul Pierce this past season. It was awarded to the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Celtic.
After the 2004-2005 season, many expected Pierce to be traded. He struggled much of the year with Doc River's system that focused less on his one on one play and more on team play. There were even times when Doc had to bench him because he wasn't running and wasn't following the game plan. It all came to a head in the playoffs when he lost his cool and was ejected in a game against the Pacers and then later showed up at the press conference with his jaw bandaged. However, he did a lot of soul searching over the off season and came back a much happier player. He was a mentor to the younger players and seemed genuinely happy to be in Boston and to like the young players that surrounded him.
Trade rumors involving Paul Pierce have swirled ever since Danny Ainge returned as the Executive Director of Basketball Operations in May of 2003. They seemed to be everwhere after his melt down in the playoffs against the Pacers. But after a stellar season on and off the court, Pierce said that he wanted to remain a Celtic. Ainge laid most of these rumors to rest in the 2006 offseason by signing Paul Pierce to a 3 year, (approximately) $59 million contract extension.
Pierce had his best season as a Celtic last year, in spite of battling a sore elbow most of the second half of the season. He has improved almost every season so far and we can only hope that trend continues. Pierce will be at the heart of the Celtics' 17th championship team. And that's The Truth...
I've had my ups and downs with Pierce. Initially, when he was first drafted, I was pretty neutral of his game. I wasn't thrilled by his career at Kansas, and thought he'd be a decent pro. As he gained notoriety and star treatment, I thought his head got too big and he kind of got nonchalant, and this made me sour on him a good bit. Add this with his occasional head butting with Doc Rivers, and I was all but ready to see Pierce gone the summer of '05. I still wonder what it would have been like if we had Chris Paul running the show, but some things we'll never know. It took me awhile before I started to appreciate his game, and last year was a turning point. I'm now more of a fan of Paul Pierce than I have ever been, but he's still on a short leash with me. His oncourt behavior and his game are still the determining factors on how well we play and good we become. He needs to continue his transition from being an isolation player in a halfcourt system to becoming an uptempo player who can thrive in a team oriented offense. If he reverts at all and struggles to run with the rest of the team, he'll hold us back. But from all signs and indications he's shown last year, I expect him to play the way we need him to play.