Paul Pierce wasn’t always certain he’d become a Celtics legend.
The newly enshrined Hall of Famer revealed to The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn last week how only a conversation with Celtics governor Wyc Grousbeck convinced him the team wanted to build a championship squad around him. Having witnessed then-Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge trade All-Star forward Antoine Walker in 2003, Pierce long suspected he might follow his former teammate out of town, as the Celtics sought to rebuild. However, Pierce and Grousbeck spoke in 2005, and the latter assured the former he’d remain the C’s man.
“I remember Wyc saying, ‘Paul, I want you here,’ Pierce said in an interview Washburn published Sunday. “He gave me the confidence that I was going to be there and they wanted to build around me. ‘I’m not trying to trade you and we’re going to win a championship with you here.’ I wasn’t sure what Danny (Ainge) wanted, but the owner gave me the stamp. I remember that.”
That conversation still didn’t cement Pierce’s fate in Boston. Consecutive losing seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 only increased his frustration, and he told Dallas Mavericks governor Mark Cuban in 2007 he’d be willing to team up with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki as part of their big three. After a proposed trade fell through, the Celtics then decided to form a superteam of their own.
“When we made that (2007) trade for Ray (Allen), that solidified it. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we really trying to do something now.'”
The Celtics followed the Allen trade with one in which they acquired Kevin Garnett, and the rest is history. They won the NBA Finals in 2008 and came within a game of winning another championship in 2010.
Pierce ultimately remained in Boston until 2013, when the Celtics traded him to the Brooklyn Nets after 15 seasons together.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined Pierce on Saturday night as part of the Class of 2021.