Paul Pierce is a great basketball player — one of the best to ever wear a Celtics uniform. One day, his No. 34 jersey will hang from the Garden rafters, and he’ll be giving a speech in Springfield to celebrate his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
But Paul Pierce is much more than a difference-maker on the court. He is a difference-maker off it. And that is just as important.
Last week, a few days before the Celtics opened training camp, Pierce attended the Clinton Global Initiative, a summit in New York that brings global leaders together in an effort to find solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems. Former President Bill Clinton established CGI in 2005 to “help turn good intentions into real action and results,” and this year, the four-day gathering inspired $9.4 billion in commitments, which are projected to impact over 200 million lives.
Pierce wasn’t there to just rub shoulders with government officials, corporate bigwigs and celebrities. The seven-time All-Star officially launched his Truth on Health campaign, a national effort designed to bring health and fitness to America’s youth. He met with experts to share ideas and discuss innovative ways to get kids active.
Pierce also has joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation aimed at combating childhood obesity.
It’s no secret that obesity is becoming a serious concern in America. With more kids interested in playing virtual games indoors than real sports outdoors — snacking on Doritos, Ding Dongs and Big Macs during Wii timeouts, while sitting on the couch and washing everything down with Big Gulps — we are on the verge of becoming a nation of dough balls.
Pierce doesn’t want to see this happen, so he’s doing what he can to ensure youngsters understand the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits. Pierce is spreading the word online with FitClub34, a Web-based community that will provide children with information, resources and tools necessary to become more physically fit.
The Truth doesn’t have to do this. He could spend his time and money in other ways. He could kick back and relax. He could put all his focus and energy into basketball. But he understands the importance of giving back. He’s using his platform as a high-profile athlete to set a good example. This isn’t lip service, or putting his name on some foundation for publicity.
Pierce believes in this mission. He’s driving home the message like he takes the ball to the rim, proving he can lead off the court and giving kids a reason to look up to him for more than just scoring points.
If his Truth on Health program motivates one individual to get in shape, Pierce will have made a difference. Before long, every kid in the neighborhood could be playing pickup games at the park instead of watching TV or surfing the Web.
Most athletes don’t know what it means to be a man for others. Paul Pierce does. Don’t be surprised if he changes the world — or at least gets it in shape.