When Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce neared the end of his career, he didn’t have to think too hard about what the next chapter in his life would entail.
That’s because Rachel Nichols apparently decided for him.
Nichols, a longtime NBA reporter and host of “The Jump” on ESPN, was interviewed on the “Locked On Celtics” podcast with John Karalis on Friday, and shared how she convinced Pierce to join the show.
“I’m going to say it was just admiration, some people would call it stalking, we’ll find out,” Nichols joked.
“But in the final month or two of his playing career he was of course, playing here in L.A. for the Clippers which is where the show is based, and I just knew he’d be great on TV. You just know about Paul, right? He’d be great on TV and I just really think the credibility he has with being a Finals MVP, and NBA Champion, and his number is up in Boston (expletive) Garden. I mean, come on. If you’re looking for who you want elite on your show, to me, having your number retired there, it just means a lot.”
Nichols had developed a relationship with the small forward while covering the Celtics in the playoffs between 2008 and 2010.
Spending all that time in Boston, she was well aware of the franchise’s storied history, and thus, how much credibility Pierce could bring to the show.
“You guys are spoiled, you live there. But trust me, I go to arenas all over the country and the only banner they have up is like ‘hey, the rodeo was here!” Nichols said.
“You know, you go to Boston and, the history there, they don’t just raise anyone’s number up there. They’re running out of numbers anyways. But yes, to me, the credibility (Pierce) would bring, the personality he would bring were so big.
“Look, I’m exaggerating but I would say at least a half-dozen times over his last two months of playing when I was in the building anyways, I would show up and be like, ‘Hey Paul, ready to come work for us?’ And then his final night there, it was his final night playing, he gave a sort of little locker room press conference thing and someone said, ‘Paul do you know what you’re going to do next in retirement?’ And he literally said, ‘well you should ask Rachel, she seems to have an opinion.'”
Nichols thought Pierce would be an asset to the show. Now, four years after its inception, it appears she was right, as ESPN hired Pierce as a full-time analyst in 2017.