Father Time is a stubborn bastard. He's not stopping for anyone. So
before we know it, Paul Pierce will be standing at center court at the
Garden… tears in his eyes… thanking Boston fans before he, the last
great Celtic, plays the last game of his career.
No, I'm not
in a hurry to see him off. But the next three, four or five years will
fly by. They always do. And I want to appreciate what Paul Pierce is,
and has been, while he's still doing it. He's still an elite player,
albeit one at the tail end of his career. Now's the time to put what
he's been doing in proper perspective… not when it also serves as a
reminder of his greatness. We've got a few years left to witness the
last player to TRULY embody what we have come to love about this
I know there will be other guys who wear this
uniform for their entire careers. Maybe a few of them will pass Pierce
on some of the team's all-time lists. Some will have their numbers
raised to the rafters. But none of that matters. It doesn't matter if
that guy is the best player in Celtics history. He's still not going
to be what Paul Pierce is now. That's because Paul is the last of them
to know Red Auerbach.
That matters. With each passing day,
Red becomes more myth than reality. He is as much a part of Celtics
folklore as he is part of its history. His exploits are romanticized.
His accomplishments defended, maybe a bit embellished, when stacked
against people (like Phil Jackson) who have the audacity to pile up
accomplishments in a different era. Red is a legend. The one and only
true King of the Celtics kingdom. And Pierce was the last man he
"He's one of my favorite kids," Red once said of Paul. "Pierce is a typical Celtics kid. All he wants to do is win."
could go into the stabbing, and how he didn't miss a single game over
the next two years. I could also go into his petulant stage that
turned some public opinion against him. But that's just rehash.
Paul's story is about more than that. It's about a guy who saw the
ideal that was set by our patriarch. It's about a guy who realized he
was being baptized as it was happening, and never looked back.
"I remember the first time I came here, playing in
his golf classic," Pierce once said. "And I sat down and talked to him for about an hour. I
was just thinking, 'Red Auerbach is taking time to sit down and talk to
me, a rookie who's unproven and hasn't done anything in the NBA. I
thought that was something special. I'll remember that for the rest of
like to think it was that hour-long talk that carried Pierce through
the dark times. Even in this age of fans lamenting lost loyalty, I
defy any of you to say you wouldn't have begged out of town in the
post-Pitino tsunami. He might have quietly, privately, grumbled
about whether his loyalty was going to be rewarded. But he never took
it beyond that. I think Red had something to do with that.
“Red always said to me, 'Your name is Paul Pierce, and just remember
who you are. Understanding who you are is saying…You’re great, you have
tons of confidence, and don’t ever forget that.’ And that helped me,
man. Because when things weren’t going right, I thought, You’ve got to
remember who you are. Don’t stray from that. Don’t let these things get
are better now, thankfully. Paul can go out whenever he goes out with
his head held high. He's done it the right way. The Celtic way. The
Red Auerbach way. It's something no other player will ever be able to