Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Fan Saying Thanks To Paul Pierce, A Brief History On His Career

"Where we came from a year ago, where I was at, to be here today celebrating with my teammates, putting a stamp on what a great year it was," Pierce told the jubilant fans after accepting the MVP trophy. "Everybody stuck with me throughout all the hard times. I know we didn't have a lot of great years, but you guys stuck with me, and now we bring home a championship to you."

Try imagining what it was like pre-Paul Pierce era with the Celtics.  After the glory years during the 80’s with the previous big three of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, the Celtics fell into some dark times.

It started in 1993 with the passing of Reggie Lewis.  Destine to be the star player for the Celtics, Lewis collapsed while shooting baskets at Brandeis University in the offseason. He passed away at the age of 26.

Trying to recover from the devastating loss, the Celtics signed a 34 year old free agent by the name of Dominque Wilkins.  Although at his age, Wilkins led a Celtics team in scoring with 17.8 points per game.  This was the same season that foreign star Dino Radja started to emerge for the Celtics.

A landmark of Boston sports was taken down in 1995, as the Celtics moved into the Fleet Center (known as TD Garden now) while tearing down the famous Boston Garden. 

Coaches were fired, many games were lost (67 games in 96’/97’ season) and everything went wrong for Boston until owner Paul Gaston convinced Rick Pitino to run the entire Celtics organization in 1997.

Boston had two first round draft picks in this draft.  They had the best chance to land Tim Duncan in the lottery but the ping-pong balls didn’t bounce their way.  The Celtics ended up with the third and sixth pick of the draft, selecting Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer respectively.

Billup was traded his rookie year and Mercer wasn’t developing as planned.  The Celtics continued to lack a superstar since Larry Bird. 

Who knew the savior to Celtics basketball would have been born and raised in California?  Born in Oakland and raised in Inglewood, Pierce was a die hard Lakers fan. 

Paul Pierce played high school basketball with the dream of one day playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He became the star of his high school team in his junior year and landed on the McDonald’s All-American Game his senior year,

After high school, Pierce took his talents to Kansas to play basketball for Roy Williams.  Averaging 16 points per game during his three years, Paul took home the Big 12 Conference MVP title twice.

At this time in his life, Paul Pierce decided it was a good time to enter the draft.  Pierce was selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics, one spot after Dirk Nowitzki.

The first season with the Celtics was not what Paul had expected.  It was a shorten season due to a lockout, however, Pierce played in 48 out of the 50 games. The bad news is the Celtics were terrible finishing with a 19-31 record.

Things didn’t go well for the Celtics the next few years for the Celtics, as the media’s pressure began to build on Rick Pitino. He later resigned as Head Coach and everything else he was doing during the 2000-2001 season.

During those Pitino years, Pierce increased his scoring each season from 16.5 to 25.3 in 00’/01’.  The following year is where the magic of Paul Pierce was starting to show.  The Celtics made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.  Led by Pierce and Antoine Walker, the Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals.  They ended up losing in 6 games.

Jim O’Brien took over after Pitino.  During his tenure, Paul Pierce and the Celtics made the playoffs 3 straight years.  Danny Ainge came aboard as Director of Basketball Operations in 2003.  The next season, O’Brien stepped down as head coach. The Celtics still made the playoffs despite the coaching change.

Danny Ainge went out and signed Doc Rivers to lead the Celtics. After Doc Rivers took over for the Celtics, who made the playoffs his first year, the Celtics begin to slide to the rock bottom. 

Ainge traded away Antoine Walker and every other player he could for draft picks.  He proceeded to leave Paul Pierce empty for a couple of years, including the only season where Pierce missed games, the 06’/07’ season.  The Celtics finished with 58 losses for that season and the best chance to win the NBA Draft lottery.

Paul Pierce was disgruntled those past couple of years, feeling his prime was being wasted on a lottery team.  Danny convinced Pierce to stick around as he had a plan to put some talent around Pierce. 

Due to Ainge’s ability to draft well over a few years, he was able to package prospects and draft picks for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  The rest was history.

Growing up in the Boston region in the early 90’s was hard without a quality basketball team to root for.  It was Paul Pierce’s career that changed that for my generation in this area.  He was the first great player that I got to watch. Growing up pre-internet era, all you had was the box score, local televised games and the national televised games.  This means most of my viewing took place watching Paul Pierce perform year in and year out.  A man who was stabbed many times at a club without missing a single game, knocking out his two front teeth during a game and didn’t leave.  He was one of the toughest players to play the game and always had that underdog chip on his shoulder. 

I can’t thank Pierce enough for all the memories and showing me the game of basketball.  The millions of Celtics fans around the world will miss seeing him in the green uniform.  No matter where life takes him, he will always be remembered as a great Boston Celtic.  One day, his number will hang in those rafters next to legends.


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