Paul Pierce’s wonderful 19-year NBA career came to a close Sunday with the Los Angeles Clippers’ loss to the Utah Jazz in the seventh game of a Western Conference first-round playoff series. Check out this nice tribute from The Players’ Tribune.
Shaquille O’Neal bestowed Pierce with “The Truth” nickname when Pierce was in his third year in the league. At Kansas, he didn’t have a nickname, at least one that stuck, but he had a next-level game and left plenty of memories from his three years with the Jayhawks.
Here are my truths about Paul Pierce:
▪ He’s had the best NBA career of any player Roy Williams has coached, at Kansas and North Carolina.
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Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star and NBA Finals MVP with the Celtics in 2008. His 26,397 career points rank third among active players and 15th all-time among NBA players.
▪ Pierce is the second-most successful NBA player to have worn a Kansas uniform, after Wilt Chamberlain. Third? Could be Jo Jo White or Clyde Lovellette or Danny Manning or Bill Bridges. Check back on Andrew Wiggins or Josh Jackson in a decade.
▪ The closest Pierce came to a Final Four at Kansas was his freshman season. In the 1996 West Region final at Denver, the Jayhawks lost to Syracuse. Pierce’s next two teams lost to Arizona in the 1997 Sweet 16 (KU was ranked No. 1 all season) and to Rhode Island in the 1998 second round. His teams won three straight conference titles, and went 19-4 against ranked teams.
Pierce’s first game was against a ranked team, a victory over Utah at Kemper Arena. There were seven first-round NBA draft picks in that game.
▪ Pierce had one of the great career finales in Allen Fieldhouse, with 34 points in a victory over Oklahoma. Pierce was so hot, toward the end of the game, Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson gave him a congratulatory backside pat. Pierce was a junior that season and was chosen first-team All-America, a nice step up from earning third-team All-Big 12 as a sophomore.
Pierce was selected 10th in the 1998 NBA Draft, one pick behind Dirk Nowitzki, and 13 picks ahead of Nebraska’s Tyronn Lue.
▪ Pierce was named MVP of the first two Big 12 tournaments, in 1997 and 1998. He was freshman in the final year of the Big Eight, making him the last pro athlete in a team sport to have played in that conference.