By Court Zierk @courtzierk on August 27, 2014
There is no shortage when it comes to great moments in Paul Pierce’s illustrious career. He entered the league as an underrated and relatively anonymous player, but by the time he was traded away from the Celtics, he had become one of the most legendary players to ever lace up in Bean Town. Here are his 10 defining moments.
Pierce was selected with the 10th overall pick behind players like Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, Robert Traylor and Larry Hughes. You think some teams would like a mulligan on that one? The Boston Celtics came out smelling like roses as Pierce would go on to become one of their most legendary players.
Pierce is iconic for his last-second heroics, and his last one in a Celtics uniform certainly stands out. It was in Game 5 with under one minute remaining when Pierce pulled up for one of his patented off-balance 3-pointers -- with LeBron James right in his face. Nothing but net. It put the Celtics up by four, and put the game out of reach. The Celtics went on to lose the series, but this moment embodied everything that made Pierce great.
2001 would mark the first time the Celtics made the playoffs in six years, but it may have been a game early in that season that best defined it. Taking on the New Jersey Nets, Pierce had one of the worst first halves in his career, going 1-of-16 from the field for two points. He turned it on in the second half, scoring 33 points in the third and fourth quarters, adding another 13 in overtime and leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind win.
This was truly one of the coolest moments in basketball history. With the clock winding down in Game 4 of a 2003 playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, Pierce dribbled the ball deliberately up the court, exchanging smack talk with Al Harrington. The two stood with their faces no more than 10 inches apart jawing at each other before Pierce pulled up and nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with under four seconds left. Legendary.
In September of 2000, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the head, neck and back at a local Boston nightclub. 11 times. He didn’t miss a single game that season, which started less than one month from the attack. If that doesn’t define Boston toughness, I’m not sure what does.
Criticized by some for being overly dramatic and worshipped by others for being heroic, seeing Pierce jog out of the tunnel after being wheeled helplessly into the locker room is a moment that we all remember.
Down as many as 26 points in the game, the Celtics would find themselves down by 21 entering the fourth quarter of a 2002 playoff series against the Nets. No team had come back to win a game when trailing by any more than 18 points in the fourth quarter up until that point. Pierc would score 19 of his 28 points in the fourth, willing his team to complete the greatest fourth quarter playoff comeback ever.
In one of the most epic head-to-head battles of the modern era, LeBron and Pierce went mano a mano in a Game 7 Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup for the ages. LeBron’s 45 points wasn’t enough to top Pierce’s 41 points, which included one of the most memorable free throws of all time. The entire game was a back-and-forth exchange of greatness that forever etched itself into the minds of all basketball fans.
Pierce’s defining moment came when he was named MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals. For the series, he averaged 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Sure, he had better series in his career, but none more important than this one. His performance solidified his place among the all-time great Boston Celtics.
Pierce didn’t have to say one word during the ring ceremony at TD Garden. His emotions spoke volumes. You could see the triumph through his tears, as 10 years of frustration, pain, adversity and struggles disappeared in an instant. It was one of the more memorable displays of intense gratitude that I can recall.
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