Paul Revered: A Show of My Full Appreciation for Boston's Paul Pierce

Greg PayneContributor ISeptember 3, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 14:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics drives past Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Remember a few years back, when Ron Artest was playing for the Indiana Pacers and he pulled Paul Pierce's shorts down in an effort to subdue his scoring prowess? Well, if you do in fact remember that, you should also remember that it didn't work.

Pierce came off a screen, received the ball at the top of the key, went left, pulled up, and buried a three-pointer with Artest right in his face.

It's been an unmatched work ethic, a prodigious set of skills, and blood icier than the Alaskan tundra that has made Pierce the greatest player I have ever seen play the game of basketball.

I missed out on John Havlicek and Dave Cowens and Larry Bird, but I take a deep sense of satisfaction that I can one day tell the young people of tomorrow that I was fortunate enough to watch Pierce, night in and night out.

82 games. 82 nights.

I'd be blessed to see more than just 82 games. But sometimes, the playoffs aren't always in the cards for Pierce.

Slowly yet surely, I've arrived at the stunning realization that the majority of Pierce's career is now behind him. It's a sickening thought and one that I try to abolish to the far reaches of my mind, to a place where I can no longer access it.

Unfortunately, I'm losing such a battle. For no matter how much I try to suppress it, it's there nonetheless.

There is some good news which corresponds with this. It makes the upcoming season that much more special for me.

Now that I can freely acknowledge that Pierce's best days are arguably occurring, I can appreciate them that much more. And that is my goal.

I will watch the 2009-2010 NBA season with a steadfast hunger that has never quite enveloped me before. I want to soak up every single second Pierce is on the floor, and marvel at the subtle nuances with which he graces the game.

Whether it's the inside-out dribble followed by a quick pull up, or the aggressive spin in the lane leading to an "And 1," or the patience of waiting just above the three-point line, in a tie game, until the clock reads five seconds and he makes his move.

Call me a sponge. Because I'm soaking up every bit of it.

Now, this is by no means Pierce's last season. He turns 32 October 13. Unfortunately, 32 in basketball years makes him roughly 67.

Realistically, with him becoming wiser as the seasons roll on and the advancements in treatments for even the most basic of basketball-related aches and pains, Pierce has another five legitimate seasons left in him.

If you seek any further proof, look at Ray Allen, who, at 34, is coming off one of his best statistical seasons ever. Or even Michael Jordan, who won the majority of his championships after he reached the dreaded 30-year plateau.

By all accounts, Pierce is still a young man, learning the ins and outs of fatherhood and soon (one would assume) husbandry. He can still spring and leap and defend with the best of them.

Yet, as one grows closer to the end, I suppose it's only appropriate to contemplate the beginning. It's simply human nature, if nothing else. All good things must come to an end, or so they say. But as I mature myself, what will I do when it's finally time for Pierce to hang it up for good?

Because no matter how many NBA basketball games I watch, or how many players I witness or dunks I see or buzzer beaters I endure, there will never, ever be another Paul Pierce.

And that thought scares me.

For it was Pierce who opened my eyes to the world of basketball. While I lacked the height and natural ability to make something of myself in the sport, it's one that still captivates me and has had a profound effect on my life.

Up until last year, I played the game nearly every day in my driveway. I shoveled the snow out of the way in the winter and subjected myself to the blazing heat in the summer; all the while practicing the Pierce-like pull-ups and spin moves around invisible defenders.

As much as I appreciate Kevin Garnett's tenacity and Ray Allen's smoothness, as well as Rajon Rondo's Rondo-ness, it's been Pierce who has defined me as a Celtics fan.

No matter how often they lost or how grizzly the losing effort was, I would tune in the following game to witness Pierce go at it again. No matter whom else he played with or what little talent surrounded him, I knew he was bringing it each and every night.

And for that, he deserved my undivided attention. He deserved all of ours.

You see, it's easy to develop a liking for Kobe Bryant when he's winning titles during the opening chapters of his respective career. It's simple to appreciate Lebron James when his colossal dunks grace SportsCenter's Top 10 plays every single day when the season is in session.

But it's increasingly difficult to admire a truly rare talent when he's tethered to a franchise, which regrettably took a nose dive following its last championship.

Despite all of the grandeur and respectability the Celtics had established over the course of their history in the league, when it was Pierce's turn to dawn the jersey, the franchise was at rock bottom.

Amid talentless teammates, failing coaches and superior opponents, Pierce defied all odds and became arguably the greatest player in the league no one dared speak of.

It wasn't because he didn't deserve it. It was simply a matter of wasted breath.

Why cheer for a player whose teams predominantly went nowhere? Why give Pierce the time of day when Kobe captured the national spotlight and the Larry O'Brien trophies?

But if you're like me, and Kobe didn't matter and Shaq didn't matter and Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady didn't matter, then you were indeed rewarded.

If Paul Pierce was the only one who mattered, then you bore witness to a truly phenomenal basketball star, and now that he's captured his NBA championship, he's finally found himself on the map.

It's been a long time coming, but as Celtics fans, we were willing to wait. There was legitimate reason to doubt it would ever happen, but sometimes, such mad hope can keep people going, no matter how depressing the reality might be.

So as the 2009-2010 NBA season draws ever closer, it is with a stunning sense of clarity that I realize I have only a few seasons left to appreciate what Paul Pierce brings to the court.

I suppose in some way, I'm taking this season like I've taken no other in the past. For, as much as I despise admitting it, it is the prologue to the final chapter of a truly storied career.

The fact that Pierce has such a profound opportunity to capture another title this season, as well as (it would seem) for the rest of his career, simply makes it that much better.