Dear Paul Pierce,
No matter how many times you did it, it always worked. With the clock ticking down and the ball in your hands at the top of the key, we all knew what was going to happen next.
Dribble...dribble...dribble...hesitation...drive to the elbow...step back...jumper...it’s good.
We complained about it sometimes. “Celtics are down one with 12 seconds left. ANYTHING but a Pierce ISO elbow jumpshot. ANYTHING.” But then you’d hit the shot, and we’d celebrate just the same. Sorry for not having faith in you.
When Rajon Rondo was suspended in the first round of the 2012 Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, I thought there was no way that we’d eek out a win against a team that just beat the Boston Celtics at full strength in Game 1. You, Paul, you proved me wrong, and you threw in a Tebow at halfcourt just to rub it in my face. Don’t worry, I was right there celebrating with you, laughing at my own ignorance.
In the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals (I’m sure you’re just as mad as I am about the referees ignoring the foul on Rondo in overtime in Game 2. If they call the foul, you win the series. No doubt in my mind), in Game 5, you did this:
Admittedly, at the time, I thought that was an awful shot. Seeing you ISO’d against LeBron James in his prime when you were that old, I thought, “Man, there has to be a better shot than that available.”
Somehow, as soon as it left your hand (and right after James high-fived you, I might add), I knew. I knew it was going to hit the bottom of the net. Every single doubt I had about you and that shot disappeared as soon as the ball left your hand. I knew that there was only one undeniable truth in that moment: the ball was going in the net because you, Paul, you are The Truth.
I wasn’t around for many of the vintage Paul Pierce moments. I am very much an “Old Man Celtics” fan, but those years gave me everything I could ask for when it comes to rooting for a team. You, Paul, you gave me wins, a fun personality, a hero to root for, a guy to defend on Twitter, someone to imitate with my own game on the court, and so much more.
When I hit a clutch shot, the first thing I want to scream is “I’m cooooolllld blooded. I’m cooolllld blooded” because you gave me that. When I’m sad and I need basketball to console me, I stand directly under the basket practicing tough layups, extending my arms as far as possible and trying to get the spin on the ball just right because that’s what you did when you lost Game 7 against the L.A. Lakers in 2010. When I’m having fun with my friends on the court, I’ll yell “that’s all gas” and “too little” because that’s what you would do when you wanted practices to get competitive. You have given me so much, Paul.
Above all else, I owe my obsession with basketball to you. Rondo piqued my interest in basketball when I saw him dive on the court for a loose ball in Game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Orlando Magic. I followed the team, and I caught basketball whenever I could. I was sad enough when we lost Game 7, and I was happy enough when we signed Shaquille O’Neal and beat the Miami Heat on opening night of the next season.
But you, Paul, you ignited a fire in me in just 12 seconds. I’m sure it’s a movie you’ve replayed yourself many times. The day is Wednesday December 15th, 2010. It was a back-and-forth affair against the team you loved killing so much: the New York Knicks. With 12 seconds left, we all knew what was going to happen. I still have the call etched into my memory, and I always will.
“Felton on him right now...Garnett the screen...Pierce driving on Stoudemire...the jumper...YES! WITH FOUR TENTHS OF A SECOND LEFT!
I will never, ever forget that night. The night you ripped out the hearts of every Knicks fan hoping to establish their team as a giant in the east. The night our hearts were almost ripped out by an Amar’e Stoudemire jumper just after the clock expired. The night when Nate Robinson ate hardwood after climbing on your back, but you were too busy soaking in the tears of New York fans to notice.
That game pushed me over the edge. I searched for every single Celtics game I could find, DVR’d it, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s true, someone else introduced me to the game, but you, Paul, you helped me love it. For that, I am truthfully grateful that I had you.
Paul Pierce, “The Truth,”