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NBA 75 Series: #47 Paul Pierce

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Coming in at #47 on my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is one of the greatest scorers for one of sport's most recognized franchises, and that is Boston Celtics legend, Paul Pierce. Pierce was born on October 13, 1977, in Oakland, California, to his single mother Lorraine Hosey. From a very young age Pierce took to sports by the encouragement of his mother, being blessed with an athletic build despite being considered on the “chubby” side growing up.

He would later move to Inglewood, California, to attend Inglewood High School where he played for the Sentinels JV team his freshman year after being cut from the varsity team his first two seasons. But Pierce stayed persistent in his pursuit of greatness, continuing to work on his game, and shed some weight to become the star player by his junior season.

By the time Pierce was a senior he would start getting national recognition with averages of 27 points, 11.5 rebounds, and four assists per game, being named a McDonald’s All-American in 1995 that featured other future NBA stars in guys like Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury, Vince Carter, and Antwan Jamison.

When it came time for Pierce to make his college decision, he had a host of offers from Division I schools, but he eventually chose to attend the University of Kansas to play for the Kansas Jayhawks under legendary head coach Roy Williams. In his three seasons as a Jayhawk, Pierce would be named a Big 12 Conference tournament MVP twice, a first team All-American, selected second team Freshman All-American, first team All-Big 12 selection, and named as a finalist for the John Wooden and Naismith awards in 1998. He would average 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, helping him to rank as fifth leading scorer in Jayhawks history (1,786 points), and 11th all-time in rebounds (676).

Upon the completion of his junior season, Pierce would forgo his senior season as a Jayhawk to put his name in the 1998 NBA Draft, where he was projected as a top five pick. He would surprisingly drop to 10th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics, a team he despised growing up in California, being a Los Angeles Laker fan, which is ironic for someone who would become one of the greatest players in Celtics history.

Early in his career, he would play alongside the man who would be his co-star in Antoine Walker. Right out the gate Pierce showed he had the makings of becoming an elite scorer, averaging 16.5 points to help him finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He would increase his average to 19.5 points per game, continuing to show improvement in his game.

But, on September 25, 2000, Pierce’s life flashed before his eyes after being stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back, with a bottle smashed on his head while at Buzz Club, a late night dance club in the Boston Theater District. He would undergo lung surgery to repair the damage and would surprisingly start all 82 games that season for the Celtics in 2000-01, having his best season across the board to that point averaging over 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, and 1.6 steals per game.

He surprisingly got snubbed from the All-Star game that year but was starting to receive respect from stars in the league, ultimately becoming known as “The Truth”, bestowed by Shaquille O'Neal on Pierce after he dropped 42 in a 112-107 victory over the Lakers in March of 2001. He would go on to become a perennial All-Star, one of the clutchest players, and one of the greatest scorers of all-time. Pierce's career has become somewhat disrespected since he’s retired, due to his post-career antics. Despite that, Pierce would get help from legends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the offseason of 2007, and they would go on to defeat the Lakers in 2008, capturing their first title in 22 years as well as the Finals MVP.

He has given us iconic moments, from the Al Harrington game-winner, to the classic wheelchair moment in the 08 Finals, erasing a 21-point deficit entering the fourth quarter against the Jason Kidd-led Nets, where he scored 19 to pull off the largest fourth quarter comeback in playoff history. We also can’t forget the one on one battles with LeBron James over the years, or even the “I called game!” postseason interview with Chris Broussard after he hit a game-winner against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the 2015 Semifinals. Along with his title and Finals MVP, Pierce is a 10-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection, and one of three players in Celtics history to score over 20,000 career points (Havlicek, Bird).

Don’t call, “The Truth!” if you can’t handle it.

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