Opinion: Boston will never say ‘goodbye’ to Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd tangle in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. Kidd will now be coaching Pierce in Brooklyn. (Getty Images)
Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd tangle in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. Kidd will now be coaching Pierce in Brooklyn. (Getty Images)

First off, wow.

From the Celtics perspective, the haul is only 75 cents on the dollar. But Mr. Kardashian, a few other pieces, and a reported three – yes, three! – draft picks is as appetizing a deal as Danny Ainge was going to get for an aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. By no means is this is an ideal circumstance; it’s often what happens when athletes become good assets, rather than franchise cornerstones.

This feels like losing a family member. So today, I’d like to write an obituary for Paul Pierce’s career as a Celtic – because in a game full of liars, he was The Truth.

Pierce entered our lives when the Celtics selected him 10th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. A lot has happened in that 5,482 day span. Bill Clinton was impeached, Janet Jackson forever changed FCC regulations, Charlie Sheen won something (or so he claimed), a small Italian woman, who went by the nickname Snooki, wrote a book about pure inanity that became a New York Times bestseller, and Pierce, rather remarkably, became arguably the greatest (yet most underappreciated) athlete, whose name isn’t Tom Brady, to grace the city of Boston.

Throughout 15 seasons Pierce made 10 All-Star teams, ranks 25th in league history in points scored, and fifth in 3-pointers made. Pierce was incredibly durable, only missing significant playing time once in his career (the infamous Tankapalooza 2006-07 season). This is a dude who was stabbed 11 times at a nightclub, a month prior to the start of the 2000-01 NBA season, and proceeded to play in all 82 games the ensuing campaign.

The accolades go beyond numbers. Pierce was the embodiment of a leader. And on any given night, against any foe, he could be the best player on the floor. There is a reason LeBron James recently called Pierce, not Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, his greatest rival.

Hall of Fame sports columnist Bob Ryan called Pierce the best pure scorer in Celtics history just midway through his career. Pierce could operate with the ball, or without it; he could go down low on the post, was deadly from 3-point range, consistently knocked down mid-range jumpers, and could take his man off the dribble and get to the elbow at will (even though Pierce was never particularly fast).

I never booed Perk or Johnny Damon or Pedro when they came back. Booing Drew Bledsoe never felt right, so I didn’t. Heck, years later, the Adam Vinatieri jeering still feels forced. Pierce is the same way. And rest assured, no matter what, Pierce will have his number retired in the Garden rafters, not in Brooklyn.

So this isn’t “goodbye.” It’s “see you soon.”

Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__


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