The Celtics announced on Friday that Celtics legend and future NBA Hall-of-Famer Paul Pierce will have his number 34 retired against the Cavaliers on February 11, 2018, never to be worn again.
3️⃣4️⃣ #ForeverACeltic pic.twitter.com/F13jHTL7Ut— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 18, 2017
Pierce’s arrival in Boston in 1998 rejuvenated a franchise that had not won a championship in 12 years. In 2002 he led a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and became the face of the team, joined by Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in blockbuster trades to deliver Boston a title in his 10th NBA season.
“We teamed up with Paul from the beginning of our ownership and grew to be champions together,” said Celtics Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck.
In the news release Danny Ainge praised Pierce’s “sacrifices” and his “love for the game,” adding, “He was one of the greatest players of his era.”
Pierce retired with the Celts on a one-day contract this spring, saying, “To now be recognized alongside those names is such an honor. I have always said I would be a Celtic for life, and now it is really coming true.”
2018 will mark the 10-year anniversary of Pierce scoring 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in 26 playoff games to deliver the Celtics’ their 17th championship. It still stands as the most games ever taken to win a NBA championship and Pierce was named Finals MVP in front of the Garden crowd.
Pierce, the second-longest tenured Celtic at 15 years, is also all over the team’s record books. He has the most three-pointers (1,823), free throws (6,434) and steals (1,583) along with the second most points (24,021) behind John Havilcek.
LeBron James will be watching from the opposing sideline as Pierce’s number goes up, which is no coincidence. Pierce and James engaged in epic battles in both the regular season and playoffs throughout their careers.
In the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Pierce hit a three in James’ face to seal a Game Five victory for the Celts. Down 2-3, LeBron stormed back with an all-time 45 point beatdown at the Garden before taking Game Seven at home and ultimately winning his first championship over the Thunder.
In 2008, James and Pierce traded shot after shot in Game Seven in Boston of the East Semifinals. Pierce scored 41, James 45 and the Celts came away with the win. They’d beat the Cavaliers again in 2010, sending LeBron home in shocking fashion before he’d go to the Heat and beat the Celts in 2011 and 2012.
Their match-ups were filled with intense offense on both sides, they’d both go right at each other and it produced some of the best NBA games ever, as well as widespread love for Pierce and boos for LeBron every time he ever touches the ball again in Boston (as well as explicit shirts sold outside the stadium).
Pierce was a fan favorite for countless reasons; his survival of a 2000 brutal nightclub stabbing and return without missing any games, his widespread community work, his playoff heroics and his love for the city of Boston. Nothing stood out more than his big shots though, in isolation in the final moments of any game he was always taking the final shot and made countless game-winners. It earned him the name “The Truth” from Shaquille O’Neal early in his career and it will solidify him in the conversation for greatest Celtic ever.