Boston Celtics: A toast to the man known as ‘The Truth’

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Paul Pierce
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Paul Pierce /

Paul Pierce’s number 34 will join 22 others in the rafters as the Boston Celtics will retire his jersey on February 11 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It was never going to take a retirement ceremony for fans to remember what Paul Pierce did over the years for the Boston Celtics franchise.

But it sure will be nice.

The Celtics will honor the veteran – who played 15 of his 19 seasons in Boston green – by raising his jersey the rafters on Sunday. Pierce signed a one-day contract in July of 2017 to officially retire a Celtic.

Pierce arrived at a time in Boston in which the franchise was in search of an identity.

The franchise was a few years removed from the Larry Bird era. Reggie Lewis, a star in the making, unfortunately passed away. And the Dino Radja era never truly materialized as fans and the franchise hoped he would.

Pierce joined a collection of young stars in the early years. He evolved into a what was often a one-man show as he attempted to return the Boston Celtics to greatness.

He battled losing seasons, lack of support, and being stabbed 11 times  in September of 2000. Surviving these life threatening injuries, Pierce went on to play in all 82 games that season.

It took the forming of a second “Big Three” to finally bring banner 17 to Boston and Pierce was at the forefront of it all.

And despite an abrupt end to his time in Boston, “The Truth” will always be remembered as a Boston legend by having his number retired. A fact we may have never truly realized would happen in the beginning.

The early years

Arriving out of Kansas as the 10th pick in the 1998 draft, Pierce joined in Boston previous top-level college talent such as Ron Mercer, Kenny Anderson and Antoine Walker.

Prior to Pierce’s arrival, life for the Boston Celtics hadn’t exactly been rosy. Bird retired in 1992, followed by Kevin McHale in ’93 and Robert Parish‘s exit from the team in ’94.

Intervening years saw the passing of Lewis and the arrival of Radja. The star from Europe never reached Toni Kukoc levels and the Celtics suffered a franchise-record 67 losses in 1996-97.

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The three seasons prior to Pierce’s arrival saw the Celtics miss the playoffs, as they did in his first three.

His scoring went up in each of those first three seasons, as did wins.It was in 2002, though, that Pierce took things up a notch.

Averaging 26.1 ppg and making the first of ten all-star games, Pierce led the Celtics on a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The run ended to the New Jersey (currently Brooklyn) Nets as Boston fell four games to two.

Pierce and the Celtics would slowly regress over the next five seasons, going from the Eastern Conference semi’s in 2003 to only winning 24 games in 2006/07. Pierce, usually steady, only saw action in 47 games.

Then the pendulum swung back in Pierce’s favor.

The second coming of the Boston Celtics “Big Three”

Pierce. Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen.

Three of the biggest stars of their generation brought together to bring home a banner to Boston. And they did it in their first season together.

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Pierce, even with the arrival of the other two, did not take a back seat. After suffering through losing seasons and disappointing playoff exits, this was Pierce’s team.

After 66 regular seasons, Boston battled through the Eastern Conference playoffs to set up a meeting with their longtime rivals the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pierce did not disappoint. He averaged 22 points in the Finals, was named Finals MVP, and had a Willis Reed-like resurrection in a game 1 victory.

His place as a Boston legend was now secure.

The end did not go as planned. The dynasty of the second “Big Three” never quite materialized thanks to injuries and Allen moving on. The Celtics returned once more to the Finals, losing to the Lakers in 2010.

In an age in which stars jumped ship at the first sign of discontent, Pierce stuck it out in Boston. He was rewarded with a championship and much more in his rise to status of Celtic legend.

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A legend with 24,021 career points in Boston. With his number now joining the ranks of Bird, Parrish, Bill Russell and more, it’s time to celebrate Pierce’s accomplishments.

It’s time to toast “The Truth”.