Paul Pierce has established himself as one of the greatest players to ever wear the Celtic green. Since being drafted 10th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, Pierce has been one of the most prolific scorers in the league and one of the most productive wing players of all-time. With career averages of 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals and an NBA championship in 11+ seasons as of January 28, 2010, Pierce has to be considered a lock for the hall of fame in nearby Springfield, MA.
His ability to take the ball to the hoop with ease, his foot work in the mid-range area and his 3-point range makes him one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the league. Pierce has been underrated by casual NBA fans for years but as Celtics fans know, he has provided many memorable moments as one of the most clutch players of recent memory.
Pierce has been the most recognizable Boston Celtic since Larry Bird and many have compared him to Larry Legend. Pierce has his own name though, he goes by "The Truth" and he has exactly that. Since his first game when he scored 19 points, he has been a scoring machine and will one day see his number 34 up in the rafters next to Bird's 33.
Paul has had too many game winning shots and dagger shots to count. He has had quite a few personal milestones and achievements in Green. He will have more as his career progresses. How can you pick just 10? You could pick out 10 in the past year alone. When you think of the most clutch players of the past decade you think of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Steve Nash; I think you have to include Paul Pierce in this group.
Celtics broadcaster Tom Heinsohn says Paul Pierce is the best pure scorer in Boston Celtics history -- even better than Larry Bird. Heinsohn has seen them all and I will take his word on that.
What do you think have been Paul Pierce's Top 10 most memorable moments? Find out right now! We'll start with #10 which was actually in the 2009 NBA playoffs...
As Pierce has aged, he has seen some of his skills diminish. However, hitting big shots was not one of them. With Game 5 of the 2009 playoff series against the Chicago Bulls on the line at 104-104 with five seconds left in overtime, the Celtics ran the famous "Paul Pierce isolation" play and he worked his magic once again. It was mano y mano with the Bulls John Salmons. As usual, Pierce prevailed. He buried the shot with 3.4 seconds left and sent the Celtics home with a huge win that helped to elevate them to the second round.
You can watch it on Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyYMeBD8GR0
The Celtics history doesn't begin in July 2007 when they acquired Kevin Garnett. In this matchup on St. Patrick's Day in 2007, Pierce scored 30 points and hit two shots with under a minute to go, including a dagger with 16.5 left to secure the victory. The win snapped an 18-game losing streak to San Antonio for the Celtics and was yet another big time Paul Pierce performance.
Going into the 2002 NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics had not won a round since 1992. Paul Pierce stepped his game up to give the fans in "The Jungle," as he called it a show. He scored 46 points and hit 8 of 10 shots from 3-point land. The Celtics won the game 120-87 and they would eventually go on to be Eastern Conference Finals participants that year.
In game 4 of the first round in 2003, the Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers 102-92. Without Paul Pierce however, this would not have been possible. Pierce scored 32 points in the second half, including 21 in the 3rd quarter to cap a rally from a 16-point halftime deficit. With 32 points in the half, Pierce set a Celtics franchise record for most points in one half in the playoffs. The Celtics went up 3-1 in the series and would later win it in six games. The best moment of the game was when Pierce hit a 3-pointer right in Al Harrington's face at the end of the third quarter. The two were talking smack and Pierce said something, then lifted up and just drained the three.
This game winning shot wasn't just any game winning shot. It was one of those shots that you just want to go in as a fan and as a player because the other team is trash talking so much. You just want them to eat it. Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards did just that, eat it on this shot. Before the shot itself, Arenas hit a shot in overtime that appeared to send the Celtics home for good. He gave the middle finger to the Celtics bench and after this, you could see a fire light in Paul Pierce's eyes. He was not going to let this chump ruin his night and ruin his team's night. Pierce buried the shot and he gave a nasty look to the Wizards as the team mobbed him at center court.
It wouldn't be the last time these two dueled in such a fashion, but this was one of the great regular season duels in NBA history. LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a double ovetime victory, but Pierce's individual performance cannot be overlooked. He set a career high with 50 points and also set the record for the most points scored in the TD (Banknorth) Garden.
In Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Paul Pierce was injured on an awkward play with Kobe Bryant early in the third quarter. He would return just minutes after being carted to the locker room and hit two big threes back-to-back. Pierce finished with 15 points in the quarter en route to a 108-98 victory over the rival Los Angeles Lakers. This was the first NBA Finals game played in Boston since 1986. The fans were dead silent as Pierce was being attended to by the trainers and carried off the court. The arena erupted when he jogged out of the tunnel though. It has to be one of the best goosebump moments in Celtics history.
This performance by both Paul Pierce and LeBron James drew comparisons to the epic shootout in the 80's between Dominique Wilkens and Larry Bird. It was Game 7 and the winner of the game would go to the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James scored 45 points, Pierce had 41. LeBron edged out Paul in the points category yet again; however , this time Pierce would come up victorious. You knew that this was his game when the Celtics won a crucial jump ball with under a minute left and Pierce shouted out so everybody could hear him in celebration. He would hit a lucky free throw with the ball bouncing off the back of the rim and rolling in, bringing out a smile for the first time in the game from this fierce competitor. All Celtics fans could do was smile for the rest of the night.
Paul Pierce was the leader of quite possibly the greatest 4th quarter comeback in NBA playoff history. Sure, the Celtics had a larger overall comeback in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Lakers, but this one was special in itself. The Celtics were down 21 points heading into the 4th quarter. Antoine Walker yelled at Pierce on the bench and told him to stop complaining to the officials and to just play his game. The crowd was quiet and Pierce did what Walker told him, just played his game. He would score 19 points in the quarter and the Celtics would beat the Nets by 4 in front of one of the loudest crowds anybody has ever heard.
This has to be Paul's greatest career accomplishment to date by far. It may not have been his greatest game statistically, but it is the moment he will tell you is his favorite. He preached all throughout the 2008 NBA Finals "us", "we", "Ubuntu" and he continued to preach it even after winning the championship. He said "This is our championship and our 17th banner we will raise." Winning the NBA championship is the greatest team accomplishment in the NBA. It means that you were better then every other team in the league. In 2008, the Celtics did just that. This was a shining moment for a player that deserved to shine way more then he ever has. This victory helped Paul finally get the national recognition from the casual NBA fan that he never got and helped his NBA hall of fame argument considerably.
If I forgot something then please leave a comment and let me know. I tried to get all of my most memorable moments but of course there will be things that are left off because only 10 can make the cut. I would also like to point out that a few of the images were not from the actual game itself like #6 and and #5 as they were regular season games and I could not find good images to put.