Paul Pierce is heading to the Hall of Fame, becoming the final member of the Boston Celtics' 2008 championship Big Three to be enshrined in Springfield, following Ray Allen (2018) and Kevin Garnett (2020).
The Celtics legend's resume speaks for itself: NBA champion, Finals MVP, 10-time All-Star, 16th all-time in scoring, with his No. 34 jersey hanging in the rafters in Boston.
From game winners to epic Finals performances, our NBA.com Staff looks back at their favourite Paul Pierce moments over his legendary career.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise because it seemed like Pierce always stepped up when the stakes were at their highest, but nothing sticks with me more than "The Truth" delivering the biggest performance of his career when he needed the biggest performance of his career.
Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, matched up against 23-year-old phenom LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. James had just pulled off the unthinkable a year prior, carrying the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals as a 22-year-old. He carried that momentum into the 2007-08 season, averaging 30.0 points per game to earn the first scoring title of his career. It was becoming more clear by the day that his career would develop into what it has become, and it seemed like even the Celtics' Big 3 wasn't going to be capable of delaying his run of dominance.
Until Pierce stepped up with a signature performance that left me with one of those memories that you'll always remember exactly where you were, what you were doing and who you were with while watching it.
Pierce and James went toe-to-toe, with LeBron dropping 45 points to Pierce's 41 points. It was a playoff duel for the ages, seeing in real-time how unstoppable James would eventually become, while also recognizing how badly Pierce wanted to will Boston to victory.
As you know, the Celtics went on to win the game and, eventually, the NBA title. It was the 17th championship in franchise history, giving Boston the all-time lead in NBA history over the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. It also solidified Pierce's legacy as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time, earning his first and only NBA championship while also taking home Finals MVP honours.
It was, without a doubt, the most important performance of Paul Pierce's Hall of Fame career.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): I can't look past his one-on-one battle with Al Harrington.
It doesn't get much cooler than this. Trash talking, clutch 3-pointer and putting the Celtics on his back. This game really summed up Paul Pierce.
In big moments, Pierce wanted the ball, he craved those matchups and in Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs, he turned in one of his most iconic performances.
Pierce powered the Celtics back from a 16-point deficit early in the third with a monster quarter, outscoring the Pacers 21-10 on 7-of-8 shooting to close the period, with his final triple the one we all remember.
Trash talking with Pacers swingman Al Harrington all night, the officials tried to get them to cut the talk, but Pierce was in the zone and letting the Pacers know all about it. On the Celtics' final possession, Harrington waved off Ron Artest, who went to switch onto Pierce, bringing the Boston crowd to their feet.
Pierce wound down the shot clock, pointed to his spot on the floor and pulled up for the 3-pointer over Harrington's outstretched arms.
Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman captured the moment perfectly: "Pierce ... buries it! Right in Harrington's face!"
That bucket gave the Celtics a 73-62 lead as they went on to secure a 10-point win and a 3-1 series lead. Pierce finished with 37 points.
The sixth-seeded Celtics went on to win the series 4-2, upsetting the third-seeded Pacers.
Sure, he's hit bigger shots in bigger games, but the swag and confidence Pierce approached this matchup with against a better team takes the cake for me.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Before I begin, let me make this clear: I was and am a Kobe-lifer.
Having watched the NBA when I was really young between 1997-2001, I reconnected with the league when it started getting broadcasted - at least the big games - in India in the late 2000s. That coincided with Bryant's second phase of title contention and the renewal of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
Ask any Lakers fans and they'll tell you the 2008 NBA Finals were among the hardest games to watch. Personally, I remember Pierce for the daggers he laid on Lakers nation in that series.
In Game 1, after he was taken off the floor on a wheelchair in the third quarter, he returned to a raucous ovation. Late in that period, he knocked down two momentum-swinging 3-pointers. Jokes about the incident aside, his impact has been compared to Willis Reed's from the 1970 NBA Finals, as the Lakers never led in that game after his shots.
In Game 4, when the Celtics came back from a 24-point first-half deficit to win, it was Pierce who led the comeback. He scored or assisted on 25 of Boston's 57 second-half points as the majority of his team-high points and assists tallies were recorded after halftime (14 of 20 points, five of seven assists).
To top it off, The Truth went off in the next two games (38 points and eight assists in a Game 5 loss, 17 points and 10 assists in a 39-point Game 6 win) and won Finals MVP.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Is it bad that my favourite Pierce memory didn't come with the Celtics?
I was eight when he helped Boston orchestrate a legendary fourth-quarter comeback against the New Jersey Nets, so I hardly remember anything outside of feeling the FleetCenter's energy through the TV, but that moment itself gets an honourable mention from me.
Ironically, my favourite moment of Pierce's came when he was a member of the Nets … the Brooklyn Nets.
It's Game 1 of the opening round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs and the sixth-seeded Nets are in Toronto to take on the third-seeded Raptors. A little under one minute remained in regulation, Brooklyn led by five and Toronto absolutely needed a stop.
Then the ball goes into Pierce's hands.
He was 16 years in, but we'd seen him do it time and time again, and everyone knew what was coming next. As he'd done so often throughout his career, Pierce got to his spot, knocking down a turnaround jumper to effectively put the game away and steal home court from the Raptors, but it was his reaction that will forever live with me.
"That's why they got me here," a mic'd up Pierce said on the ESPN Broadcast. "That's why I'm in here … that's what I do."
Calm and cool as ever, Pierce did exactly what we've known him to do for his entire career, making his response extremely accurate. Even at that stage in his career, you could expect Pierce to deliver when the stakes were at their highest, as he'd done so many times before. It also set the tone for Brooklyn to win the series in seven.
It also helps that the sound bite he gifted us with is fun for timely use amongst friends in group chats. Clutch, indeed.
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