Revisiting Paul Pierce’s Wheelchair Exit In 2008 Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals

Maybe he just had to use the restroom


Feb 21, 2023

The story of Paul Pierce’s infamous wheelchair incident in the 2008 NBA Finals has morphed over time, but what actually happened to the Boston Celtics legend on that fateful night in June?

The facts of the situation are fairly simple.

The Celtics were taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Pierce, who entered the matchup averaging 19 points per game in the playoffs for a historically dominant Boston squad, took over to start the second half of the game and pull the Celtics within four midway through the third quarter. That is when disaster seemed to strike.

Celtics teammate Kendrick Perkins crashed into Pierce’s leg in an attempt to block a Kobe Bryant jumper, sending the 10-time All-Star to the floor in a heap. Pierce would be carried to the tunnel by Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen, before being wheeled to the Celtics locker room in visible pain.

Less than two minutes of game time later, Pierce would jog back out onto the court and put together one of the most iconic performances in Celtics history. Back-to-back threes put Boston back in front and allowed them to eventually pull away with a Game 1 victory on their way to Banner 17.

So where’s the confusion?

Well, some have questioned the reason for Pierce’s absence, given it was so dramatic yet so short. The man himself has even flip-flopped when answering questions regarding the most infamous night of his career.

NBA Twitter (the most treacherous of the website’s subsects) clung to the fact that they believed Pierce pooped himself during the game. After years of hearing those rumors, Pierce eventually relented and played into them when working for ESPN in 2019.

“I have a confession to make,” Pierce said at the time. “I just had to go to a bathroom.”

It didn’t take long for him to walk things back, however, telling Michelle Beadle in 2021 that he didn’t have an accident on the floor.

“If you poop your pants, does it make sense to sit down and mush it in a wheelchair?” Pierce said. “No, I would walk back there and go straight to the bathroom. Why would I need a wheelchair if I pooped my pants? You don’t sit down on your poop, right? It doesn’t make sense.”

So what is the more likely scenario? Did he poop himself or was his knee injured?

What about neither? Given the way Pierce explained the situation, it sounds like he knew he would need to use the restroom and found a way to get there without the accident. Is there any way to be sure of that? No. Will he ever relent and tell us the real story? Probably not.

The only thing for certain about Pierce and the 2008 NBA Finals is that he was superb. In his first appearance, the Hall of Famer averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals en route to Finals MVP honors.

Unfortunately for him, he’ll forever be known for the wheelchair incident.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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