On Feb. 5, 1999, Paul Pierce stepped on an NBA floor for the first time, following the lockout that season. Being a rookie in such a prestigious league is nerve-wracking enough and having to wait a few extra months does not help. In the 1998 NBA Draft, Pierce was selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics. He played college ball at Kansas where he put up about 16 points per game in his three seasons. For the Celtics, who had struggled to contend since 1987, Pierce was more than a response to these prior struggles, he was The Truth.
Pierce started in all but one of the Celtics’ games during the 1998-1999 season, where he averaged 16.5 points and about six rebounds per game. He continued to get better each and every year, but the C’s made little noise in the playoffs. If you were a Boston fan, it was easy to tell that this guy was the future for the franchise. Alongside Antoine Walker, Pierce was part of a strong tandem for many years in Boston. However, this tandem was never enough to render Boston a real contender for a championship.
Pierce was named an All-Star for the first time during the 2001-2002 season when he averaged a remarkable 26 points per game. Pierce would go on to make nine more All-Star games throughout his career. Most of his legacy was defined by his ability to hit shots when it counted the most, and some consider him one of the greatest clutch players in the history of the game. He became a guy who was never afraid of the big moment and always wanted the ball in his hands when the pressure was at its peak.
If it was not for the existence of LeBron James, it is impossible to predict what the career path for Pierce would have been. His career was largely defined by all the battles he had with The King. The Eastern Conference was either going to run through Pierce or James when they were both healthy and in their prime. Pierce was in Boston for a long time before any true success came to the City of Champions, and he would have to defeat the generational talent in James in order to deliver for the Celtics faithful. Out of all of the match-ups between the two first-ballot-hall-of-famers-to-be, King James has a mere one-win advantage over The Truth.
During the off-season of 2007, the Celtics broke the internet in a three-day span in which they acquired Hall of Famers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett via trade. This was a dream come true for Pierce, who was never one to complain, but who appreciated the company of superstar talent. When you add the big three to the emergence of rookie point guard Rajon Rondo, whom the team also got via trade, it was a near perfect squad, coached by Doc Rivers.
In their first season together, they looked like a well-oiled machine that had been hooping together for years. The Celtics went on to go 66-16 in the 2007-2008 season. However, they would have to get past LeBron James in order to have a chance to compete for a championship. The meeting between the C’s and the Cleveland Cavaliers would take place in the Eastern Conference semifinals. As predicted by many, this series took seven games to decide a winner. Pierce and LeBron guarded each other throughout each game in the series and during Game 7, they both decided it was time to carry their respected ball clubs. Pierce finished with 41 points to LeBron’s 45. The Celtics were ultimately too much for James and the Cavs to handle, and they advanced to the next round. They met the late Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 Finals. Pierce and the Celtics took the series in six games, and Pierce was awarded MVP of the finals. Everything changed drastically in just one season for the Celtics, and it was only right for Pierce to win MVP. The Truth will forever be the nickname of the Boston and NBA legend Paul Pierce, a nickname given to him by the one and only Shaquille O’Neal back in 2001.