In the current era of NBA purists, analysts, and observers, it is clear that many of the articles regarding the players and their on and off the court antics are written to label these players under certain stereotypes. It is under this mantra of writing that players like Chris Bosh are unfairly labeled as poor defenders or rebounders despite upward trends in these areas that remain unnoticed to the casual NBA fan.
It is because of this style of reporting by less than adequate writers that under-the-radar players like Luol Deng have received little to no praise for returning to form and recovering from the stigma of being disappointments since the signing of huge contracts (i.e. Rudy Gay's continual improvement since his huge extension, Baron Davis' recent return to form, etc...). The focus is always on the flashiest players with the biggest names under the biggest spotlights.
While this reporting focus is not without its own merits and logical reasoning, it is also important to recognize players who receive little fanfare in the way of media attention while also paying occasional tribute to players whose roles are vastly altered compared to their glorious pasts.
Paul Pierce is recognized today as one of the most versatile veterans in the league. It is not uncommon knowledge that Paul Pierce is a clutch finisher who can do everything on the court. However, it was not until the acquiring of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen by the Celtics that Paul Pierce began to be recognized as a winner.
Before their arrival, Paul Pierce had the unfortunate stigma of being labeled a good player on a bad team. Players of lesser stature such as Michael Redd, Corey Maggette, and Gerald Wallace all fit the exact same stereotype. I believe that Paul Pierce is, and was always, a winner and superstar in the same light the media has always portrayed players like Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Deron Williams.
If the only judge of talent is statistical comparisons (which is blasphemous and obviously not the case), Paul Pierce's career numbers would easily rank him in Top 50 company. However, this black-and-white, ineffective approach on judging talent would also indicate that Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter are nearly equals, which is definitely not the case. However, his career stats do speak volumes on his consistency and versatility throughout the years.
Since his rookie season, Paul Pierce has been dominating games with his scoring, his hustle, his passing, his rebounding, and his defense. Averaging 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.5 steals during his career, Paul Pierce has proven statistically that he does not pale in comparison to any of the elite superstars in the NBA in any era.
Intangibly, Paul Pierce has shown the ability to do everything and be everywhere on the court. In the same mold as an Anderson Varejao or a Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce has the instincts to draw charges, block shots, guard passing lanes, and rotate defensively with the best of them. His stingy defense on Kobe Bryant in stretches of the 2008 NBA Finals prove that when he sets his mind to it, he can be as potent on defense as he is on offense.
In terms of clutch performances, Paul Pierce has proved that he is one of the best finishers in the league by scoring countless buckets at the end of the shot clock, down the stretch of a close game, and when assigned the responsibility of taking the final shot (i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BOnCPd9DjY&feature=fvst).
Although the recent portrayal of his pre-Big Three Celtics era is one of disdain and failure, Paul Pierce has proven that he is, and always was a winner who could carry a team with a meager supporting cast. As a lone superstar, Paul Pierce has lead his Celtics to 49, 45, 36, and 33 win seasons and several strong playoff appearances from 1998 to 2007 despite constant roster shuffling and rebuilding years. It is a testament to his consistency and leadership that he was able to garner such successes despite lacking a stable supporting cast.
It is a little bit of an exaggeration to say that Paul Pierce gets no respect. He remains captain of the Celtics and has won an NBA Finals MVP since the conception of the Big Three. However, it is clear that many have forgotten that Paul Pierce is still able to play on the same level as dominant superstars like Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade. The combination of his past statistical output, intangibles skills, and clutch ability prove that Paul Pierce is merely deferring statistically to his teammates the same way superstars like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan do.
Without knocking the massive contributions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the success of the Celtics, Paul Pierce remains the Celtics' true heart and soul. Paul Pierce remains the Celtics' prominent superstar.