The Captain representing the city
that fell for him.
The story of Paul Pierce is one that's been well documented over the years, between cliche monikers or the storybook redemption he was able to attain, we've heard it all. It's been chopped up and fed to us again and again, every big game analysts read off the amazing path Pierce took to be at the grand stage he's on now. He's the "cornerstone" of the Celtics or as Kevin Garnett puts it "the original Celtic," which is absolutely true but there's a lot more to the truth, a side of the truth that might have been forgotten or unappreciated.
When the story is told on television of Pierce's life it takes a lot away from what actually happened, almost like this side of truth isn't good enough. You can't feel anything but happiness when watching because it has a fairytale feel to it and a great ending is expected. There isn't a lot of fear evoked, or sorrow, betrayal, dejection or hope for that matter. The truth carries all these reactions. In reality it's a story that should bring you from the depths of everything wretched and bring you to the ultimate peace, because for a generation of Celtics fans that's what Pierce embodies.
For 14 marvelous seasons Pierce has been everything a Celtic could want even when we might not have wanted him. With Rondo's injury, trade rumors and a future blurred with a lot of questions, Pierce's days could be numbered. The question of whether or not he deserves to retire a Celtic is brought up, and maybe because of how the truth's been told, people would be willing to part with him. Pierce has meant something special to the Celtics throughout the years and it can't be more evident then the connection he's built with an era of fans. Outsiders might not understand the special bond but if the true facts were recounted and the turbulence of the decade were recounted, maybe, just maybe, they'd understand the Truth.
They all came from different places
but their legacies come together
Paul Pierce isn't just a Hall of Fame player, he's an all time Celtic great and for many, a generational player. As annoying as our grandparents are with stories of Bill Russell walking off into the sunset with a championship or Havlicek stealing the ball we'll be just the same with the infamous back to back three pointers or the 21 point comeback. The hard to believe truth is that Pierce is as great a Celtic as Larry Bird, John Havlicek, and Bill Russell.
Each of those players came at a critical time for Celtics nation. Russell was a pioneer for Boston, a man that helped bring racial tension to light and united a team of African Americans and white players, just like a city would attempt to do. Havlicek displayed the willingness in Boston of wanting to do anything to win. His part in revolutionizing the 6th man role was a testament to a culture of the goal being bigger than the person. Bird came at a time when the city and franchise needed a savior. He carried the team back into a dominate state and gave the city a fierce competitor that embodied the determination of a people as a whole. Someone that would give life and limb for the betterment of the team. Someone that came from a blue collar background like many in the city had.
The greatest scorers Boston has ever witnessed
Growing up a Celtics fan in the early 2000's was tough, there wasn't much winning surrounding the franchise and things looked bleak. Pierce was perfect for the city because as he was coming onto the scene, the nation began to idolize players that embellished the entertainment side of the sport. The dunkers like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady were revered, scorers like Stephan Marbury and Allen Iverson were respected for their quick handles and flashy style. Naturally a player like Pierce that isn't physically dominant and can't wow you with one play is overlooked. He was our lone bright spot, a player that could mesmerize us like his predecessors had before him. Though he wasn't as physically gifted as others, he somehow always found a way to score. He just worked for every bucket and early on, that endeared him to fans, not to mention his ability to always rise up in the clutch.
Everyone else in the NBA began to catch on to Pierce's career after the nightclub incident where he was stabbed 11 times with training camp looming. He suffered wounds to the face, neck, back and chest that night and literally came within inches of death. For many athletes, not only is training camp in question but the beginning of the season as well, but Pierce isn' the average athlete. Not only did he play on opening night but the 81 games that followed as well, not missing a single start. He averaged 25 points a game while maintaining a field goal percentage of over 45%. That placed him with the 7th highest scoring average for the season, in the same year that he almost died. Immediately for Celtics fans, the foundation of heart and courage began to resonate with you. The stories of Havlicek playing with a separated shoulder or Kevin Mchale playing with a broken foot can be appreciated so much more because you've seen that same spirit in person.
Not one to shy away from stating his opinion
Pierce was poking fun at the lack of calls
in a playoff game against the Pacers
Pierce went on to have have some dominate seasons, leading the Celtics, with Antoine Walker, to the playoffs. They nearly upset the New Jersey Nets to earn a berth to the NBA finals but came up short. That wasn't before Pierce led one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history in game 3. With the Celtics down 21 heading into the fourth quarter, I remember thinking it was over and that the series was lost. As the momentum swung toward the Celtics, and Pierce rallied the team with 19 points in the fourth quarter, my father stated, "The Celtics had Larry with them tonight." That was lost amidst all the hysteria and jubilation I felt at the time but looking back that performance was one of greatest things I've ever witnessed. Maybe it would be the story I'd be telling in 50 years.
The Celtics would lose the series but to witness some of the things Pierce did was surreal. It's not always easy to play in "The Jungle" as Pierce calls it, but he put together some great games, including a 46 point game against Allen Iverson and the 76ers the series before. Through all the his individual accolades on the court, Pierce's problem early on was immaturity. No matter the age difference, watching Pierce grow in terms of the NBA was important for his generation of supporters. One of his lapses was in game 6 of the playoff series against the Pacers in 2004. Jamaal Tinsley gave Pierce a hard foul, and a little jab afterwards, and Pierce's reaction caused him to get ejected. Instead of having our leader take the possible game clinching free throws Kendrick Perkins, yes the big fella, was forced to take on the hero's role. The Celtics still won the game but Pierce had to put on a show for the media after the game. Bandaged up around his neck Pierce wanted to bring attention to the officiating, instead giving outsiders the opportunity to question his maturity. The Olympics that year didn't help either as he and Baron Davis were widely viewed as the reason the team had such negative characteristics like selfishness, ineptitude and the term "ugly Americans" associated with them. To have everyone doubt your leader helped fans like me steer toward Pierce more. An us against them mentality was born, but would be tested with some of the low points still to be made.
What needs to be understood is that as a young fan you don't see right and wrong or mature and immature, you only comprehend that Pierce is our guy and no matter what, I've got his back. He could do no wrong because when everyone else saw was losses I saw games we shouldn't have been in. When people pointed to playoff series losses I pointed to playoff series we had no business being in. Though he only grew in stature for a young fan base, the rest of the NBA wasn't following suit
One of sports greatest upsets, Team USA
lost to Argentina and fans were left
Pierce's status as a superstar was beginning to diminish and he fell out of favor with many people in the NBA circles. He was in trade talks and nearly shipped out of town a couple times. The team would flounder and couldn't make the journey between making the playoffs and becoming serious contenders. Antoine was gone and the sole blame was put on Pierce. The 2007 season was the lowest it could get with Pierce, as the connection with Celtics fans was nearly severed. As a fan, I'd witnessed both the Sox and Patriots win championships, but my love was basketball. Not only was I settling when I would choose the C's, I was watching a team that would win only 24 games. I didn't know it then, but all this has made Pierce mean so much. At any one point Pierce could have been gone. He could have left when things went bad. The team could have traded him, but yet he stood there, wanting to be part of the Celtics change, part of the most storied franchise in basketball's resurrection.
Those colors should follow Pierce
until the day he finally retires.
What followed in the next season was something not a lot of sports fans get to experience. Winning a championship is always a big deal but who you win with makes it even sweeter. Pierce wasn't just some guy we'd signed in the offseason, (hello Heat fans) he was our own. A player that suffered like the city had throughout the decade. He was with us the entire journey and when you can share that moment with someone, it makes it that much sweeter. The scars of the previous season's 58 losses were still fresh, but we were witnessing the Captain raise that trophy. We had just been sobbing over the lost opportunity to draft Greg Oden,our savior, when suddenly Pierce is bringing us back to the pinnacle of sports. It's a journey no story teller would conjure up, but one that deserves a fairytale ending.
Pierce's career has been filled with many great achievements, but the final and most critical task is that he walks away from the NBA in green. The NBA is definitely a business, but sometimes when something special comes your way, an exception can be made. When someone who has walked with you along the NBA landscape, has weathered many bad days for you, and has spent many years suffering for you needs some support, it's easy to brush off some losing seasons. I won't lie, I'm biased because Pierce is my guy. He's the first true superstar I grew up with and witnessed for his entire career, but it's not just me, its an entire fan base that got to relish it. And, for that, he deserves to go out a Celtic. I'd welcome 22 more years of purgatory before I gave away the player that made that championship as sweet as it was. Call me crazy but its the Truth.
This has been happening every season for at least the past 3 or 4 years. "Trade Rondo, trade Allen, trade Paul, trade KG". Sure, the C's struggle a lot but at the end of the day we have more heart than any other team in the NBA, BY FAR. And guys like Pierce define that.