Any time you make it all the way to the promised land of the NBA Finals, it's a special occasion. But to get there for the second time, and as the captain of a team you grew up hating, taking on a team you grew up idolizing? That's something else entirely.
And that's the case for Paul Pierce. Born in 1977 in Oakland and raised in Inglewood, where he was a standout basketball player at Inglewood High School, Pierce is California-born and bred. Now he's taking on the Lakers, his boyhood idols, in the Finals for the second time.
"It's always special to be a part of the Finals, and to do it in the place where I grew up makes it even more special," Pierce said Monday at the Celtics' practice facility in Waltham, Mass. "The only negative thing about it for me is tickets. It's going to be pretty expensive, but it's going to be exciting just to have my family and friends there, in the place where it all started for me, watching the NBA Finals again."
Pierce has admitted that he grew up worshipping the 1980s Lakers — Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy — but no longer.
"Even though I grew up a fan of L.A., I'm no longer a fan," he said. "You know, it's just a part of growing up."
He still has L.A. roots, though, and it's hard for him now to be so detached from his old hometown team.
"Is it a little weird? Yeah, definitely," Pierce said. "But I think it's more weird for my friends, who are not playing for the Boston Celtics, and they grew up L.A. fans, and all of a sudden, they're Celtic fans because of me. But for me, I've accepted Celtic tradition. I'm a part of it. I'm here now, and I'm a full-blown Celtic."
So do they call him a traitor back home? A turncoat? Benedict Arnold in a green jersey?
"I don't really get anything from friends or family," Pierce said. "They'll be sure to keep their mouths closed, because they want tickets."