It is a rarity in the life of a sports fan to be able to grow up with a single star player and have him be there throughout the major events in both of their lives.
On Nov. 2, I traveled into Boston for the Celtics' home opener. The game against the Milwaukee Bucks was scheduled for 7:30 E.T. The 45-minute drive into the city took more than two hours, thanks to traffic and inclement weather.
Despite the awful commute and yawn-inducing game, the entire evening reemphasized just how special Paul Pierce is and has been since 1998.
You see, there is nothing sexy about a trip to Boston. The weather isn't anything to write home about, and during basketball season, the sights are very limited. The night-life can be average, with last-call coming far earlier than other major cities would even think about.
The bottom line is, Boston is not the ideal destination for young NBA talent. Much is always made about how difficult it is to sign marquee (not Marquis) free agents to the Celtics, and it is true.
The city is clunky; driving is difficult and more often than not, it is cold. The city is Paul Pierce. It has been for 14-plus years, and should be until he hangs it all up.
Pierce's game seems tailor-made for Boston. High scores are easy to come by when the weather is nice and the beaches are flowing. In Boston, it is a little tougher.
The offensive play that is Paul Pierce is unique, historical in a sense that blends old-school principles with new-school talent and athleticism. His moves are calculated, but clunky, especially now. They display years of experience, as well as the strength of the new-age NBA.
Like a team with 16 championships before the '90s rolled around, being competitive in 2012. Pierce is a window to the past, with a foothold in the present. The struggles from his youth, always falling short, to the glory of the 2008 championship and beyond.
It is so rare in sports that fans are granted the opportunity to experience the entire career of a star player. The city of Boston has been with Paul Pierce for it all. The rookie phenomenon, the near Finals trips with Antoine Walker, "the Truth", the stabbing scare and immature shenanigans, the trade rumors, the Big Three, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP and now.
None of this has been easy. Contrary to the way things are in 2012, Celtics fans did not instantly adopt Pierce. He has been nearly run out of town just as many times as any other young star. From incidents like the playoff ejection in Indiana to near trade demands just prior to the Big Three forming.
A generation of fans has grown up with Pierce as an outlet for their struggles and successes. Not only have they earned the right to witness him into retirement, but he has earned the right to retire as a legend in a Boston Celtics uniform.
These opportunities do not come along often. For every Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, there are hundreds of moving players. Even superstars are prone to trades and defections. No matter how many titles or awards they win, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony won't retire with the same type of pride Paul Pierce will.
Last February, Pierce passed Larry Bird for second place on the Celtics all-time scoring list. At the outset of the 2012-13 season, Pierce still sat a wide margin away from John Havlicek. Still, more than 3,000 points separate the two, and while the distance seems insurmountable, Pierce should be allowed to try.
For everything he has given the Boston Celtics franchise over the last decade and a half, the idea of losing Paul Pierce now seems disrespectful. He has made their product competitive since he has been here, even when they were unable to surround him with talent.
Pieces have come and gone throughout the Boston sports scene. Tom Brady has only been a New England Patriot for 13 seasons. David Ortiz will enter season No. 11 with the Boston Red Sox next spring. Pierce has them all beat.
He is a great in the eyes of Boston. Despite never making an All-NBA First Team, and just one Second Team, Pierce has been an elite player year in and year out. He was never in any Most Valuable Player conversations, yet even at 34-years-old, was among the top jersey sellers of 2011-12.
He remains the lone member of the Celtics’ starting unit who can create his own shot from anywhere on the court, and one of the best offensive players in the game. He has hit too many big shots in a green uniform to count, and I’m sure there are a few more on tap for 2012-13.
In basketball, there has to be something deeper than money and fame. There exists something on a different plane altogether. This is the place that pride and loyalty reside. Things that are more than what God-given athletic ability, or hours of practice can give you.
This is something that exists only when fans see the soul of a player truly bleed the colors that their souls have bled and endure the hardships, triumphs and tribulations that they have gone through, themselves.
Paul Pierce's legendary career means more than 10 All-Star appearance or 22 points and six rebounds per game.
It means more because of where it started and where he will finish.
Though there is little beauty in either his game or the city in which he plays, there is beauty in that.
The true beauty in finishing something you started.