Paul Anthony Pierce (born October 13, 1977) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Pierce was a high school McDonald's All-American and earned All-America first team honors in his junior year at Kansas.
Pierce spent the first fifteen years of his career with the Boston Celtics, who drafted him with the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft. In July 2013, Pierce was included in a deal that sent him to the Brooklyn Nets, along with teammates Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. He signed with the Washington Wizards the following offseason, but after just one season with the Wizards, he moved back home to Los Angeles and reunited with his former Celtics coach Doc Rivers at the Clippers.
During his time with the Celtics, Pierce had been a starter on the team for every season. He is a ten-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA team selection, and also led Boston to the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010, winning the 2008 NBA Finals. He was named the 2008 NBA Finals MVP in his first trip to the NBA Finals. Pierce is also one of only three players, alongside Larry Bird and John Havlicek, who have scored over 20,000 points in their career with the Celtics alone. He holds the Celtics' record for most three-point field goals made and also ranks third in team history in games played, second in points scored, seventh in total rebounds, fifth in total assists, and first in total steals. He has also made the fourth most three-point field goals in NBA history, behind only Jason Terry, Reggie Miller and Ray Allen. His nickname, "The Truth", was given to him by Shaquille O'Neal.
High school career
Pierce was born and raised in Oakland, California. His family later moved to Inglewood, California, where he attended Inglewood High School. He was cut from Inglewood High's varsity basketball team his freshman and sophomore years, and seriously thought about transferring before spending extra time in the gym and becoming the star of the team by the end of his junior year. Pierce went on to participate in the 1995 McDonald's All-American Game alongside future NBA stars Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Stephon Marbury, and Antawn Jamison, and was a contestant in the game's Slam Dunk Contest, which was won by Carter. He grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan and dreamed of playing with the Lakers.
Pierce averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in his three seasons at the University of Kansas, where he majored in Crime and Delinquency Studies, and earned MVP honors in the Big 12 Conference Tournament in both 1997 and 1998. Pierce played for Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams at Kansas. One of his teammates was future Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. He entered the NBA draft after his junior year and was selected with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.
Boston Celtics (1998–2013)
After his NBA debut, Pierce's ability to score, rebound and play defense, and a healthy dose of late-game heroics led to his emergence as a top player in the Eastern Conference. Along with forward Antoine Walker, Pierce led the Celtics to the playoffs in 2002 for the first time in seven years and on to the Eastern Conference Finals. In the historic Game 3 of that series, he led the Celtics to one of the biggest fourth-quarter comebacks in NBA playoff history. Pierce scored 19 of his 28 points during the fourth quarter as the Celtics recovered from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the New Jersey Nets.
Trade rumors involving Pierce swirled when Danny Ainge returned as the Executive Director of Basketball Operations in May 2003. Ainge laid most of these rumors to rest in the 2006 off-season by signing Pierce to a three-year, $59 million contract extension.
Injury and missing playoffs
During the 2005–06 NBA season, Pierce had the highest points-per-shot average among the top 30 scorers in the league. On March 8, 2006, Pierce extended his franchise-record streak of 30-point games to eight. On March 7, he scored seven points in overtime to beat the Washington Wizards on a buzzer beater, and the next night the Celtics eked out a victory against Philadelphia on the strength of two late-game improbable shots by Pierce, one a three-pointer, the other an off-balance buzzer beater for the win. He scored at least 30 points for the 13th time in 14 games (between February 4 and March 12), the best such stretch in Celtics history.
He followed up this stellar season with an injury-riddled 2006–07 campaign that saw him miss the first significant stretch of games in his career, due to a stress reaction in his foot. In spite of this injury, he still managed to put up his usual numbers in the 47 games in which he saw action. But the Celtics, during that season, went on an 18-game losing streak and had one of the worst seasons in franchise history, going 24–58.
NBA champion and Finals MVP
Prior to the 2007–08 season, he expressed great excitement at the Celtics' acquisitions of fellow All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and at the chance to contend for a championship. He slimmed down to his college weight of 235 lb (107 kg; 16.8 st) and vowed to pay more attention to defense, as he did not have to carry the offense anymore.
On April 28, 2008, Pierce was fined $25,000 by the NBA for an alleged menacing gesture after falling to the ground and being taunted by Al Horford in Game 3 of the first round in the 2008 Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks on April 26, 2008. Sources claimed this gesture was a gang-related hand sign, but Danny Ainge, general manager of the Celtics, stated that Pierce has been repeatedly doing it before and that it was not gang-related, but rather a symbol used within the team. Pierce himself denied it, adding that his foundation was committed to helping urban youth keep away from gangs.
On May 18, 2008, Pierce recorded the second-highest point total in franchise history in a Game 7 with 41 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. On June 5, 2008, in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Pierce was injured in the third quarter and was carried off the court in serious pain. However, he came back to the court only a few minutes later to spark the Celtics with 15 points in the third quarter en route to a 98–88 victory. He went on to lead the Celtics to their 17th championship after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers four games to two. Pierce was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player after the Celtics' 131–92 victory in Game 6 on June 17, 2008.
Not long after winning the championship, Pierce was asked, "Is Kobe [Bryant] really the best player in the world?" Pierce responded by saying, "I don't think Kobe is the best player. I'm the best player. There's a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don't cross that line but I have a lot of confidence in myself." The quote drew minor controversy.
Coming up short
Pierce and the Celtics looked to repeat as world champions during the 2008-09 NBA season. Pierce missed only one game the entire season and led the team in scoring. He was named to the 2009 NBA All-Star Game and for the first time to the All-NBA Team Second Team. Despite Pierce's success, with Kevin Garnett injured, the Celtics lost in the second round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.
In game 3 of the first round between the Celtics and Miami Heat in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Pierce hit a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer to beat Miami 100–98, and give the Celtics a 3–0 series lead. The Celtics went on to win that series, and also defeated the heavily favored Cavaliers in the second round. They faced the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, and beat them in 6 games to advance to their second Finals appearance in the Big 3 era. They faced off against the Lakers in a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals, and took a 3-2 lead heading back to Los Angeles. However, in spite of Rasheed Wallace more than making up for the loss of injured center Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics were blown out in game 6 and lost a 13-point second half lead in game 7, losing the deciding game 83-79.
On June 29, 2010, Pierce opted out of his contract and triggered his early termination contract to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010. However, on July 2, Pierce and the Celtics verbally agreed to a four-year extension keeping him in Boston through the 2013–14 season.
On November 3, 2010, during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Pierce scored his 20,000th career point on a free throw, becoming the third player in Celtics history to reach that milestone solely in a Celtics uniform. The Celtics finished the season with the number 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and swept the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Celtics took on the Miami Heat and their big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Celtics lost to Miami, who eventually moved on to the NBA Finals, in five games.
On February 7, 2012, during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Pierce scored fifteen points to pass Larry Bird for second place on the Boston Celtics' all-time scoring list. He was named to his tenth NBA All-Star appearance on February 9, 2012. He then played his 1,000th career game with the Celtics on March 9, 2012 against the Portland Trail Blazers; only Pierce, John Havlicek, and Robert Parish have played in over 1,000 career games for the Celtics. For the 2011-12 season Pierce averaged 19.4 points, 4.5 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game as the Celtics finished the season 39-27 in the lockout shortened season.
In the playoffs, the Celtics beat the Hawks in six games in the first round, as Pierce averaged 21.2 points per game during the series. In the conference semifinals the Celtics faced the Philadelphia 76ers led by Doug Collins. They pushed the Celtics into a full seven game series, but the Celtics won the final game 85-75. The Celtics then played the Miami Heat in the conference finals. Pierce hit a crucial 3-pointer over LeBron James in game 5 to take a series lead of 3-2, but the Celtics lost the last two games, and the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals. Pierce finished the playoffs averaging 18.9 points per game while shooting only 38.6 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.
The 2012–13 season did not go as planned for Celtics, with All-Star Point Guard Rajon Rondo out with a torn ACL injury. On January 27, 2013 against the Miami Heat, Pierce recorded his first triple-double of the season with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. On February 10, 2013 against the Denver Nuggets, Pierce recorded his second triple-double of the season with 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists becoming the oldest player, in a game of any length, to record at least 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists (previously held by Larry Bird). On March 29, 2013 against the Atlanta Hawks, Pierce recorded his third triple-double of the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Pierce finished the 2012-13 season with season averages of 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game while the Celtics managed to clinch the 7th seed in the playoffs with a 41-40 season record (with one game not played because of the Boston Marathon bombings). The Celtics lost to the New York Knicks in the 1st round in six games. Pierce averaged 19.2 points per game while shooting a poor 36.8 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from three point range along with 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the playoff series loss.
Brooklyn Nets (2013–2014)
On June 28, 2013, the day of the NBA draft, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets reached a deal to trade Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry for future first-round picks in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 drafts and Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, and Keith Bogans. The deal was completed on July 12, 2013. Brooklyn also received D. J. White. Pierce convinced Garnett to waive his no-trade clause so that the deal could come to fruition. The Celtics took out a full-page advertisement in the Boston Globe thanking Pierce and Garnett for their contributions to the team. When Pierce left the Celtics, he was the third in franchise history in games played, second in points scored, first in free throws made, and first in 3 point field goals.
At an introductory press conference with Garnett and Terry following the trade, Pierce stated, "We are championship driven... We made a lot of money in our careers. We have won a number of awards. At this point right now, we are about winning a championship. Brooklyn gives us the best opportunity."
Despite the Brooklyn Nets getting off to a disappointing start to the season, Pierce showed Brooklyn why he is known as the "Truth". After Brook Lopez's season ending injury, Kidd decided to move Pierce to the power forward position, which subsequently helped the Nets on both offense and defense. By moving him there, he had the advantage and skills to shoot over larger defenders, while also using his speed and ball handling to get by them. In addition, he opened the paint for players like Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to thrive. Pierce would go on to finish his 2013-14 campaign averaging 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assist in 75 games (68 starts).
On April 11, 2014, Pierce scored his 25,000 career point, becoming just the fourth active player to reach that milestone. He finished the season with 25,032 points.
The Nets faced the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, as they went on to defeat them in seven games with Pierce blocking what could have been a game winning basket by Kyle Lowry in Game 7 to win the series for the Nets. In the second round against the Miami Heat, the Nets were defeated in five games, as Pierce averaged 13.7 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three over 12 total playoff games.
Washington Wizards (2014–2015)
On July 17, 2014, Pierce signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Washington Wizards. With 14 points against the Atlanta Hawks on November 25, 2014, Pierce passed Jerry West for 17th place on the NBA's career scoring list. Two weeks later, Pierce passed Reggie Miller for 16th place on the NBA's career scoring list with a season-high 28 points against the Boston Celtics.
On January 14, 2015, Pierce passed Jason Kidd for fourth all-time in three-pointers made in the 105-99 win over the Chicago Bulls. Eleven days later, he recorded his 2,000th career three-pointer in the 117-115 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets. On February 2, 2015, he passed Alex English for 15th place on the NBA's career scoring list with 11 points against the Charlotte Hornets. Pierce finished the regular season averaging 11.9 points per game, a career low.
On May 9, 2015, Pierce made a two-point shot with three defenders on him at the buzzer to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 103-101 and take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. He finished the game with 13 points and 7 rebounds. In Game 6 of the series on May 15, the Wizards were down 94-91 with seconds remaining when Pierce launched a three-pointer, hoping to extend the Wizards' season by forcing overtime. The shot swished, apparently tying the score at the buzzer, but the play was reviewed, showing the clock expired before Pierce released the basketball. Pierce finished the playoffs averaging 14.6 points and shot 52.4 percent from three in 10 playoff games.
On June 27, 2015, Pierce opted out of the second year of his contract with the Wizards to become a free agent.
Los Angeles Clippers (2015–present)
On July 10, 2015, Pierce signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He made his debut for the Clippers in the team's season opener against the Sacramento Kings on October 28, recording 12 points and 7 rebounds off the bench in a 111–104 win. With Lance Stephenson starting at small forward, Pierce began the season as a role player off the bench for the first time in his career. He started in three games midway through November, but quickly returned to a bench role with coach Doc Rivers constantly shifting his starting small forwards around. Over his first 20 games of the season, Pierce went scoreless in five of those contests, two more times than in his previous 17 seasons combined. On December 16, Pierce scored six points against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the game, he hit a buzzer beater to end the first quarter and became the fifth active player and 16th in NBA history to reach 26,000 points. On December 26, he scored a season-high 20 points against the Utah Jazz, recording 6-of-11 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range to help the Clippers win 109–104. On January 16, 2016, Pierce missed a potential tying three-pointer with 25 seconds left in the game against the Sacramento Kings. He scored 7 points in the 110–103 loss, snapping their 10-game winning streak. In that game, Pierce went over 45,000 minutes for his career, becoming the fifth active player and 17th in NBA history to reach that mark.
Pierce was a member of the United States national team for the 2002 FIBA World Championship, starting all nine games and averaging 19.8 points per game. Pierce was also selected for the United States national team for the 2006 FIBA World Championship, but did not compete because of minor off-season surgery.
Pierce and his wife, Julie (née Landrum), have two daughters, Prianna and Adrian, and one son, Prince.
On September 25, 2000, Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back and had a bottle smashed over his head while at the Buzz Club, a late night dance club in the Boston Theater District. He had to undergo lung surgery to repair the damage. Nevertheless, Pierce was the only Celtic to start all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. Also, witnesses say that Pierce was attempting to separate the fighters when he was stabbed. Tony Battie, Pierce's teammate at the time, along with Battie’s brother, saved him by rushing him to a nearby hospital. In 2003, two and a half years after the attack, Pierce pledged $2.5 million to help expand the high-tech surgical center at Tufts-New England Medical Center that helped make his recovery possible. Pierce stated, "This is an opportunity for me to give back to the hospital that was there for me when I needed it."
Pierce's nickname, The Truth, was accorded to him by Shaquille O'Neal after a 112-107 Lakers' victory over the Celtics on March 13, 2001 in which Pierce scored 42 points on 13 of 19 shooting. O'Neal pulled a Boston reporter over and gestured toward his notepad. "Take this down", said O'Neal. "My name is Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don't take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn't know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is The Truth."
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|†||Denotes season in which Pierce won an NBA championship|
- NBA champion: 2008
- NBA Finals MVP: 2008
- All-NBA Second Team: 2009
- 3-time All-NBA Third Team: 2002, 2003, 2008
- 10-time NBA All-Star: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
- NBA All-Rookie First Team: 1999
- NBA 3-Point Shootout winner: 2010
- NBA regular-season leader, total points: 2002 (2144)
- NBA regular-season leader, free throws made: 2003 (604)
- Named First Team All-America by the Associated Press after his junior year at the University of Kansas.
- Named Big Eight Freshman of the Year in 1995–96.
- MVP of the Big 12 Conference Tournament in both 1997 and 1998.
- Member of the All-Big 12 First Team in 1997–1998.
- Member of the US national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship.
- Member of the 2006 USA Basketball World Championship Team (Did not play due to an elbow injury).
Boston Celtics franchise records
- Most points scored in a game at TD Banknorth Garden: 50 (February 15, 2006 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers).
- Most points scored in a half (including Overtime): 46 (December 1, 2001 2nd Half vs. New Jersey Nets).
- Most points scored in an overtime period: 13 (December 1, 2001 vs. New Jersey Nets)
- Most three-point field goals made, career: 1578
- Most three-point field goals attempted, career: 4273
- Most free throws made, career: 5808
- Most free throws attempted, career: 7212
- Most free throws made in one game: 20 (November 2, 2002 vs. New York Knicks).
- Most free throws attempted in one game: 24 (November 5, 2005 vs. New York Knicks).
- Most free throws made in one half: 14 (March 2, 2001 vs. Utah Jazz).
- Most free throws made in one season: 627 (2005–06, breaking his own record of 604 set in 2002–03).
- Most free throws attempted in one season: 812 (2005–06, breaking his own record of 753 set in 2002–03).
- Most steals in one game: 9 (tied with Larry Bird; December 3, 1999 vs. Miami Heat).
- Most free throws made without a miss, playoffs: 21 (Game 1, 2003 Eastern Conference First Round).
- Most points scored in one half, playoffs: 32 (Game 4, 2003 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Indiana Pacers).
- Highest scoring average through one month: 33.5 PPG (February 2006).
- Only Celtics player in franchise history to lead the NBA in total points scored in a season, scoring 2,144 points in 2001–02.
- Oldest Celtics player to score 40 points in a game: 35 years, 2 months, and 6 days old (December 19, 2012 vs Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Currently is the Celtics' second all-time leading scorer, behind John Havlicek. He also ranks second in team history in career scoring average, behind Larry Bird.
- List of National Basketball Association players with 1000 games played
- List of National Basketball Association career scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career steals leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career turnovers leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career 3-point scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career free throw scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career minutes played leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff steals leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff turnovers leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff 3-point scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association career playoff free throw scoring leaders
- List of National Basketball Association players with 9 or more steals in a game