20 May 2008

The Warrior

When Paul Pierce's career is over, will his number rise to the rafters in-between Larry Bird's #33 and Reggie Lewis' #35? Even if the Celtics never win a championship during his career, Pierce has proved himself to be one of the best players of his generation.

Because the Celtics have been bad for so long, it's easy to dismiss Pierce as a franchise guy who couldn't quite carry a team. Look at his career accomplishments so far though. In ten years, he's been to six All-Star games, averaged 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and almost two steals a game. In addition, he has great shooting range, is an impeccable free throw shooter, possesses great court vision, and has proven to be a clutch performer time and time again. Oh, he also plays defense.

His Boston teams have reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice, in 2002 and 2008, both appearances coinciding with another All-Star caliber player (first Antoine Walker, then KG and RayRay) sharing the burden. Most of those other years, he's had to suffer from poor management decisions and/or horrendous coaching. Through all the adversity, Pierce has remained a true Celtic. After the glory of the Eighties and the tragedies of the Nineties, Pierce provided hope to the Celtic faithful for an entire decade.

I guess the question isn't really if he will have his number retired -- he definitely will -- but whether or not he'll make the Hall of Fame. If he wins a championship in the next year or two, that's a near certainty.

The craziest thing about all this is that Pierce was stabbed in September 2000 multiple times and was inches away from dying. He came back two months later, played like an All-Pro, and carried the Celts, just like he's always done.

He also has one of the best nicknames in sports: The Truth. Shaquille O'Neal, the originator of the nickname, dubbed him such after playing against Pierce early in his career.

"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.'"