For Boston sports fans, it's impossible not to realize how lucky we are to have some of the great sports franchises in the world. In the last decade, we've been able to wipe the slate clean in all four of the major sports, raising banners for each team and witness some of the greatest players and coaches in each of those sports history.
Boston has undeniably become Titletown.
The debacle in the NBA regarding the trading of Chris Paul and last years' The Decision by LeBron James had me thinking of yet another reason Boston sports fans can boast and feel proud.
Perhaps we have overlooked one of the true greats to ever wear a Boston uniform in Celtics captain Paul Pierce. It's not that his on-court performance is overlooked. He is highly regarded as a leader, a scorer and a champion. But in this era of players reneging on their contracts, demanding trades to their "chosen" team to "have a better shot of winning," – abandoning fans that have poured their hearts, souls and bank accounts into them — we should be proud and thankful to have a player like Pierce.
For 13 seasons he has worn the Celtics uniform with pride — a pride that comes from understanding what it means to play in Boston. Where hard work, passion and humility is what is expected and demanded by the fans, something he quickly realized after his initial disappointment of slipping to 10th in the 1998 NBA draft and being selected by the team he despised as a child growing up in Los Angeles.
It was obvious to me, as I was witnessed Pierce diving all over the floor in a preseason game in January of 1999 (another lockout-shortened season) that he clearly knew the value of hard work and the pride of wearing the Celtics uniform.
Pierce has had all of the ups and downs of any star athlete in the world. On the court he's played through mediocre seasons, legendary seasons and even an epic losing streak during one of the worst seasons in the franchise's storied history. There were brief moments of immaturity — as there are with most 20-somethings — most notably when he was ejected late in a playoff loss and had his head wrapped in gauze and tape for the postgame news conference. But Pierce learned from all of his experiences, good and bad, and become not only a champion, but a leader.
After the 2006-07 campaign, a season that Pierce was injured, triple-teamed and having to play both power forward and point guard on a nightly basis, it was rumored that Pierce would ask to be traded in order to get a better opportunity to win and possibly more money from another team. Pierce chose to stay "home" and honor the contract he had signed a year earlier. Let's not forget, this city he now calls "home" is where he was nearly killed in 2000 when he was stabbed 11 times in a nightclub.
After leading the Celtics to Banner No. 17 in 2008, where he was the Finals MVP after narrowly losing Game 7 of the 2010 Finals, Pierce opted out of his contract. Not like his contemporaries in today's sports world to get a bigger, more lucrative deal in a warm weather city, but to make the Celtics better. He signed a new contract with a pay cut which would allow the team wiggle room to acquire free agents.
Paul Pierce is a selfless leader in an era of look-at-me followers. In him, is everything Boston values in it's greats. He's hard working and humble. He is the heart and soul of this Celtics team and it's obvious they need him back.
He is The Truth.
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