It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
But life doesn’t give a damn about “supposed to.”
“Supposed to” is a subjective concept, created to satisfy our own instinctual desire for a clear line of demarcation between right and wrong. “Supposed to” is a manufactured reward for ourselves as we march down the path our dreams have weaved.
“Supposed to” is, frankly, quite often a myth.
The Larry Bird era wasn’t supposed to end with him in a crumpled heap on his living room floor, unable to move after games. The post-Bird era wasn’t supposed to be riddled with death and drugs.
Hollywood endings are scripted for a select few. And Paul Pierce wasn’t one of them.
Let’s be honest, though. Paul Pierce was never supposed to be here at all. Mr. Inglewood grew up dreaming of Purple and Gold. He listened to Chick Hearn, not Johnny Most. He snuck into the Forum, not the Garden. He dreamed of passing palm trees, not snow plows, on his way to games.
But there he was, in a draft where he was supposed to go higher than 10th, watching player after player go ahead of him. Michael Olowokandi. Mike Bibby. Robert Traylor. Jason Williams. Larry Hughes. By the time the 10th pick came around, he was staring at being selected by the one team he wasn’t supposed to play for.
He came to Boston and played basketball like a professional would. He made the All-Rookie team. He made All-NBA Teams. He made a bunch of All Star teams. He played on teams that were supposed to go further than they did, and on some that went further than they were supposed to.
Somewhere in the middle, he was supposed to be traded. Somehow, he wasn’t. Even after butting heads with his new coach, Doc Rivers. Even after he idiotically wrapped gauze around his face to highlight what he thought was a call he was supposed to get.
We make up all of our “supposed to’s” for our own reasons. Step back from those and you’ll see that the true story of Pierce’s time in Boston is a true story of the same reality that faces all of us.
We want our sports heroes to be perfect. We want them to be model citizens. We want them to play at a quadrillion percent every day, on every play. We want them to take pay cuts to stay in town. We want them to sign every autograph, take every picture, kiss every baby, respond to every tweet… basically do everything we think they are supposed to do.
But that’s not reality.
Reality is that our own grand plans in life are constantly being reworked because of unforeseen obstacles and detours. Reality is that a lot of us aren’t where we thought we were going to be.
Wherever you are right now, chances are quite good that this wasn’t part of your plan.
And it wasn’t part of Paul Pierce’s, either.
But he did the one thing we ARE all supposed to do in situations like this. He adjusted his perspective. He embraced his new reality. He took all these things that were supposedly so “wrong” in his life, and turned it into something very, very right.
A championship. Finals MVP. Vindication.
Ten years ago, the trading of Paul Pierce wouldn’t have solicited the anguished outcry of a fan-base that lost it’s hero of a generation. Seven years ago, most of our retrospectives on his career would have included some level of acknowledgement that a change of scenery would be beneficial.
Today there is an irrational pain attached to the departure of the captain. He’s simply going to play basketball for a very large sum of money in a different area code, but we are still in a form of mourning.
No, it’s not the ending we all had in mind. This wasn’t how the script was supposed to be written. This isn’t how it was all supposed to go.
But this is what life is all about. When things don’t go the way they’re suppose to, we’re supposed to roll with it. Sure, we’ll make mistakes along the way, but if we learn from those, we’ll grow. Some day, we might have to make some sacrifices, but it will be ok, because we know they’ll be worth it. And finally, with our heads clear and a confidence that life’s lessons will carry us through the rough patches, we’ll get to where we need to be.
That, to me, is the story of Paul Pierce in Boston. Beyond the elbow jumpers that will forever be etched in our brains. Beyond the clutch buzzer beaters. Beyond beautifully choreographed footwork that managed to get him from point A to point B in ways that we still can’t comprehend; this is what his story is.
It is the story of a man who wasn’t supposed to be here, at least not this long. It’s about an L.A. kid becoming the purely Boston embodiment of hard work and, ultimately, the sweet vindication of that effort. It’s about a man who learned hard lessons along the way, and, in the end, became the one thing he was always supposed to be.
A Boston Celtics legend.