The Boston Celtics will waste little time hanging Paul Pierce’s No. 34 from the TD Garden rafters as the organization with which he spent 15 NBA seasons will retire his number on Feb. 11.
Given Pierce’s many playoff battles against LeBron James and Boston’s proximity to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference hierarchy, it probably comes as no coincidence that the team will raise the 2008 Finals MVP’s number alongside 21 other Celtics legends (and “Loscy”) when the Cavaliers are visiting.
“I will always be grateful for the sacrifices Paul made to help the Celtics be great,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a news release. “His love for the game was contagious and his talents and hard work were legendary. He was one of the greatest players of his era.”
Pierce ranks second behind only John Havlicek on the franchise’s career scoring list, pouring 24,021 points in from 1998-2013, when he was traded along with Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets. Pierce scored another 2,376 for the Nets, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers, to finish his career as the NBA’s 15th-leading scorer. Nicknamed “The Truth” by Shaquille O’Neal in March 2001, Pierce also set Celtics franchise records for 3-point field goals (1,823), free throws (6,434) and steals (1,583).
“The moment I was drafted by the Celtics, I knew I was joining one of the most historic organizations in the NBA. For 15 years, I played at the Garden, looking up at the jerseys of some of the most iconic players in the game — Russell, Bird and Cousy. To now be recognized alongside those names is such an honor,” said Pierce. “I have always said I would be a Celtic for life, and now it is really coming true.”
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After the last of a series of emotional returns to Boston, which ended in a late 3-pointer and a teary goodbye, Pierce hung his sneakers up at the end of this past season, his 19th since being drafted 10th overall in 1998. True to his word, he signed a one-day contract in Boston last month to retire a Celtic.
Since playing his final game, he’s taken a full-time gig as an analyst for ESPN, where he’s repeatedly thrown a few playful barbs at LeBron over the years, reminding the Cavs star about their epic duel in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, slotting James behind Magic Johnson on the all-time list, and even suggesting Kevin Durant “may be the best player in the world today” in June. So, surely Pierce will take no small pleasure in the fact LeBron will attend his jersey retirement ceremony.
Pierce’s No. 34 will join the following numbers above the parquet in Boston:
00. Robert Parish
1. Walter Brown, the founder and first owner of the Celtics
2. Red Auerbach, head coach and architect of multiple dynasties
3. Dennis Johnson
6. Bill Russell
10. JoJo White
14. Bob Cousy
15. Tom Heinsohn
16. Satch Sanders
17. John Havlicek
18. Dave Cowens
19. Don Nelson
21. Bill Sharman
22. Ed Macauley
23. Frank Ramsey
24. Sam Jones
25. K.C. Jones
31. Cedric Maxwell
32. Kevin McHale
33. Larry Bird
35. Reggie Lewis
The only players on that list not in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame are Maxwell, the 1981 Finals MVP and a radio broadcaster for the team, and Lewis, an All-Star who died during his sixth season in Boston. Pierce, a 10-time All-Star, is a surefire Hall of Famer and will be eligible for the Class of 2022.
Kevin Garnett’s No. 5 will almost surely be the next number after Pierce’s 34 to be retired in Boston.
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