Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021. Selected as the 10th overall pick of the 1998 NBA Draft, Pierce spent the first 15 seasons of his illustrious career with the Celtics, before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. He played one season with the Nets, had a one-year stint with the Washington Wizards and then closed out his career with two seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers before retiring in 2017.
Pierce earned Finals MVP honors in 2008. The NBA champion made 10 All-Star appearances and became known as one of the game’s all-time great clutch shot makers. A prolific scorer, Pierce ranks 16th all-time in points scored. He ranks inside the top-20 in free throws (9th), three-pointers (12th) and steals (20th).
Stacking up against other Celtics greats, Pierce is the franchise’s No. 2 all-time scorer, trailing only John Havlicek. Pierce is Boston’s franchise leader in free throws, 3-pointers and steals. He ranks third in games played, fourth in blocks and seventh in rebounds.
Shaquille O’Neal famously dubbed Pierce “The Truth” back in 2001 after the young Celtics star exploded for 42 points against the then-defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Paul Pierce: 10 Best Moments of his Career
In honor of The Truth, let’s look at 10 moments that defined his first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
10a. Series-clinching block
When: When: May 4, 2014
Game: 2014 East. Quarterfinals: Game 7, Nets at Raptors
In his lone season with the Brooklyn Nets, Pierce managed an everlasting playoff moment in a Game 7 thriller. The host Toronto Raptors trailed by 10 with six minutes to go before cutting the lead to a point. Looking to steal the series, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry drove to the hoop and put up a floater before being met by Pierce, who swatted the ball as time expired.
Mike Tirico, the play-by-play announcer for ABC’s coverage of Game 7, summed up the final moment perfectly: “At the moment of truth, it was ‘The Truth’.”
10b. “I called game”
When: May 9, 2015
Game: 2015 East. Semifinals: Game 3, Wizards vs. Hawks
With the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks knotted at 101, Pierce was given the ball with the game on the line. He delivered by banking-in a 21-foot fallaway jumper as the buzzer sounded. ESPN’s Chris Broussard got a hold of Pierce after the contest and asked whether he “called bank” on the shot. A trash-talking extraordinaire, Pierce had a clever response:
“I called game.”
“I CALLED GAME!”
🗓️ 6 years ago today…
Paul Pierce’s step-back bank won it for the Wizards (+4) at the buzzer. 🏦pic.twitter.com/gvCRbkuvzN
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 9, 2021
9. Surviving the stabbing
When: September 25, 2000
Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the neck, face and back, and had a bottle smashed over his head while in the pool room of the Buzz Club— a late night dance club in the Boston Theater District—early in the morning on Sept. 25, 2000.
22-years-young, Pierce’s then-teammate Tony Battie and Battie’s brother rushed him to the Tufts New England Medical Center, where he underwent life-saving surgery. According to Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price, Pierce’s abdomen was gashed three times, one of which sliced his diaphragm, puncturing a lung and plunged to “within a half-inch of his heart.”
The surgeons took incredible care of the Celtics’ captain, who spent a mere four days in the hospital.
Pierce made a remarkably speedy recovery after his near-death experience and managed to suit up for all 82 games—the only Celtic to do so in the 2000–01 season.
8. Playoff buzzer-beater at Miami
When: April 23, 2010
Game: 2010 East. Quarterfinals: Game 3, Celtics at Heat
Pierce dropped 32 points with eight assists against the Miami Heat in Game 3. His sensational outing was capped off with his 21-foot jumper as time expired that gave the Celtics a 100–98 victory.
In Boston’s final possession, Pierce dribbled the clock down to two seconds, getting to his sweet spot on the right key and buried the jump shot over the outstretched arms of Heat forward Dorell Wright.
April 23, 2010: Paul Pierce hits the game-winner at the buzzer in Miami to give the Celtics a 3-0 lead in round 1 of the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/gGLJe6kbzI
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) April 23, 2021
7. 46 second-half points
When: December 1, 2001
Game: regular season, Celtics at Nets
Paul Pierce endured the ugliest half of his career—missing 15 of 16 shots before intermission in this tilt at New Jersey.
From the second half on, Pierce was unstoppable. He went 12-for-18 from the field (5-for-5 on 3’s) and 17-for-18 at the free-throw line over the game’s final 29 minutes in the Celtics’ overtime win. He registered 33 points combined in the third and fourth quarters, then scored 13 of Boston’s 15 overtime points.
19 years ago today, Paul Pierce scored 46 points in just the second half against the Nets… 😳
— Guy Boston Sports (@GuyBostonSports) December 1, 2020
Pierce produced 48 points, his highest scoring total in a road contest of his career.
6. The infamous Wheelchair Game
When: June 5, 2008
Game: 2008 NBA Finals: Game 1, Celtics vs. Lakers
NBA fans often link Pierce to his wheelchair moment in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. During the third quarter of Game 1, Kobe Bryant hit a 12-foot jumper during a a bizarre play where Celtics center Kendrick Perkins slammed into Pierce, who tumbled to the ground.
Pierce was carried off by his teammates into the locker room, where team physician Dr. Brian McKeon instructed Pierce be put on a wheelchair. Minutes later, Pierce returned from the tunnel as the Celtics faithful became delirious. Pierce checked into the game and buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He totaled 15 in the third period, making all five of his field goals. He finished with an efficient 22 points—going 7-of-10 from the field—in the Celtics’ 98–88 win.
Paul Pierce’s “Wheelchair Game” in Game 1 of the NBA Finals vs the Lakers (2008) pic.twitter.com/00JjlgF4sv
— Throwback Boston (@TheCityofChamps) February 12, 2017
While Pierce joked about the infamous moment, McKeon is adamant that Pierce tore part of his MCL. Regardless of what people choose to believe, the inarguable fact remains that Pierce’s Game 1 showing is a mainstay in NBA Finals folklore.
5. Celtics playoff-record 32 second-half points silence Al Harrington
When: April 27, 2003
Game: 2003 East. Quarterfinals: Game 4, Celtics vs. Pacers
Paul Pierce led the sixth-seeded Celtics to victory over the Indiana Pacers, accumulating 37 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
The Celtics faced a 48–36 halftime deficit and fell behind by 16 points in the third quarter before Pierce took over. He scored 21 in the third and finished with 32 second-half points—a Celtics playoff record. (Isaiah Thomas tied Pierce’s mark in 2017 during his unforgettable 53-point outburst)
Pierce tallied the final 11 points of the third period. He concluded his scoring outburst with a dagger right between the eyes of Al Harrington. Pierce jawed back and forth with Harrington and then drilled the 26-footer as the shot clock expired.
(2003) Paul Pierce trash talks Al Harrington and then hits the three in his grill.
Legendary. 💯 pic.twitter.com/7QBcxO9jV7
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) December 7, 2018
Before nailing the 3-pointer, Pierce told Harrington, “I hope you are ready, because I’m going to bring it.”
4. Playoff career-high 46 points
When: May 3, 2002
Game: 2002 East. Quarterfinals: Game 5, Celtics vs. 76ers
Squaring off against the defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers in a decisive Game 5, the Celtics won in convincing fashion to grab their first playoff series win since 1992—Larry Bird’s final season in the NBA.
Pierce delivered a playoff career-best 46 points with six assists, four rebounds, a steal and a block without committing a single turnover.
(2002) Paul Pierce pours in 46 points to lead the Celtics over the Sixers in Game 5 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aeWYtKxqo5
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) May 10, 2018
3. Greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history
When: May 25, 2002
Game: 2002 East. Finals: Game 3, Celtics vs. Nets
The Celtics faced a 74-53 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter in Game 3. At the time, 171 teams in NBA postseason history had taken leads of more than 18 points into the fourth quarter and none had lost. That all changed when the Celtics rallied from 21 points down to complete the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history. (The Los Angeles Clippers tied this mark in 2012 in a Game 1 road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies)
Boston scored 41 fourth-quarter points to New Jersey’s 16. Pierce alone outscored the Nets in the fourth with 19. He ended with a game-best 28 points in the 94-90 victory.
On this day in 2002, the @celtics’ Paul Pierce scored 19 points in the 4th Q for the biggest comeback win in NBA playoff history. #BovadaSportsHistory #NBA #Celtics
— Bovada (@BovadaOfficial) May 24, 2020
2. Outduels LeBron in Game 7
When: May 18, 2008
Game: 2008 East. Semifinals: Game 7 , Celtics vs. Cavaliers
When looking back at the Paul Pierce versus LeBron James rivalry, Game 7 of the 2008 East semifinals is the contest ingrained in the minds of many NBA fans. Both players carried their respective teams for the duration of the series-deciding duel.
#TB Game 7 of the 2008 ECSF
LeBron James: 45 pts, 5reb, 6ast, 2stl, FG 14/29
Paul Pierce: 41pts, 4reb, 5ast, 2stl, FG 13/23#Celtics defeat Cavs 97-92. pic.twitter.com/u694TSMLoQ
— Celtics Direct (@CelticsDirect) March 25, 2020
Pierce dropped 41 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the floor with four rebounds and five assists. James countered with a game-best 45 points on 14-of-29 shooting with five rebounds and six assists. The Celtics won 97-92 to advance to the East Finals.
1. Paul Pierce wins Finals MVP
When: June 17, 2008
Game: 2008 NBA Finals: Game 6, Celtics vs. Lakers
The Celtics throttled the Lakers in Game 6 of their championship-clinching triumph. Pierce had 17 points and a game-high 10 assists in the 131–92 rout.
Pierce earned Finals MVP award after averaging 21.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the series.
12 years ago, the @celtics proved that anything is possible.
Finals MVP @paulpierce34 and co. finished the job in Game 6 with a record-setting rout of the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92. #NBAVault pic.twitter.com/NRvoYkeYxo
— NBA Philippines (@NBA_Philippines) June 18, 2020
Though Kevin Garnett was unquestionably the major driving force behind the Celtics’ regular-season success —winning a league-best 66 games—Pierce was Boston’s best player during the playoffs.
During the first nine years of Paul Pierce’s career, the only All-Star teammate he played alongside was Antoine Walker, who was traded by Boston on two separate occasions. Pierce implored the Celtics management to put better players around him. His message was clear: get me star help and a championship will come. At long last, the front office rewarded him with the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Garnett. In Pierce’s first season playing alongside co-stars, he delivered the franchise a long-awaited title.