I'm twenty-two years old, which would have made me around seven when Paul Pierce arrived in Boston. At the time, I knew who the Celtics were, but I couldn't name any players. My dad and I saved ticket stubs from games in 1997 and '98, so I know I was watching the team, even if I can't really remember doing so. I didn’t realize it until much, much later, but I was about to be introduced the sport, team, and player that would stick with me forever.
When I was seven, I was ending a battle with cancer. I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening, and I definitely didn’t understand the seriousness of it. To me, it was a day-to-day struggle against needles and hospital stays. My mom was back in school, and my dad was (and still is) a Boston cop. In my room today, I still have a program from a game during Pierce’s rookie season. My dad’s friends worked the details at the game, and one of them got the magazine signed for me. It didn’t really hold meaning for me back then, but it does now.
By the time the Celtics and Nets were battling in the playoffs, my interest in basketball was full force. I was kind of awkward and chubby and couldn't really play, but watching the games was a godsend to me. Pierce and Walker were ballin’ out, and staying up late to watch the games was just icing on the cake. Unfortunately, those series’ against the Nets led to much defeat and heartbreak, something I wasn’t used to. I guess every sports fan has to realize they’re team just lost and won’t be back for another four or five months and for me, that lesson came at the hands of Jason Kidd and Kerry Kittles. Those years were tough, and they were just the beginning of a pretty ugly stretch of Celtic Basketball.
Fast-forwarding to the start of “Big Three Era” is where my love for hoops was completely reborn. Unlike the shortcoming in 2002, this roster had it all: a strong defensive presence, sharp shooting, great coaching, and the “clutch gene”. That year and those playoffs were equally nerve-racking and glorifying. I knew an NBA Championship in Boston was a beautiful thing, even if I hadn’t been around in years past to witness Larry Bird win one. After 2008 were a lot of ups and downs and frustrations, but it didn’t matter to me. I now understood what it meant to bleed green and where a Celtic jersey, without ever playing a game. Watching Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen taught me plenty about basketball on the court, but Pierce’s lesson spilled off of the parquet. The Truth’s fifteen years in Boston helped me better understand loyalty and perseverance, and what it means to truly fight. From the historic comeback against New Jersey, to battling the Lakers in the Finals. To fending off the overmatched Miami Heat and ultimately falling short of another historic comeback against the Knicks -- Paul Pierce always showed a sense of calm, even while torching opponents. He was never the fastest or strongest and he certainly had his bad years here in Boston, but he kept coming back for more.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing him good luck with Brooklyn, but I’d also like to say thanks for the fifteen years of lessons through Celtic Basketball.