Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Paul Pierce surpassed Larry Bird for second on the Boston Celtics’ all-time scoring list with a three-pointer early in the second half of the Celtics 94-84 win.
For a while now, the debate of whether or not Pierce is a top-five Celtic of all time keeps popping up and after Tuesday night, Pierce is making his best case.
But in all honesty, and let me finish before you tear the paper into shreds: his best doesn’t cut it. Not for the Celtics that is.
Look, Pierce has been a terrific player, and is currently one of the NBA’s most clutch players with the ball in his hands and the clock winding down. He’s won a title and a Finals MVP. He will more than likely be a lifetime Celtic and his No. 34 will be retired in between Larry Legend and the late Reggie Lewis.
But is he one of the top five Celtics of all time? No.
Look at it this way:
1. Bill Russell – If you disagree with this, I advise you to stop reading or take a history course on the NBA.
2. Larry Bird – If you need reasoning for this as well, see Russell (above).
3-4. Bob Cousy and John Havlicek – This is a tricky one. Both have a strong case for the third spot, so I’ll leave this up for debate. But regardless, these two Hall of Famers clearly lock down the three and four spots.
Havlicek was a member of the dynasty in the 1960s and then a part of two titles in the ‘70s. Also, Havlicek is the only one ahead of Pierce on the Celtics’ all-time scoring list.
Cousy was one of the top point guards not only of his era, but of NBA history. In today’s NBA, which is dominated by point guards, Cousy was the first point guard to win an MVP award.
That leads us to No. 5.
5. Sam Jones – He is one of the best scorers of the Celtics’ dynasty and averaged 17.7 points per game over his career. Oh yeah, he also has 10 championship rings. In seven championship seasons with the C’s, Jones averaged over 18 points a game in each of those years (he averaged 22 a game in 1967, when they didn’t win a championship). And I’ll let you guys do your own homework. Go through important playoff games and see how incredible Jones’s performances were.
It’s not that I hate Pierce. I love the guy. He’s one of my favorite players ever. I have not one, but two jerseys, one of which is the one I got in seventh grade (and if I do enough sit-ups before I can still fit into).
Now, let’s get the reasons for why Pierce should not be on this list out of the way.
I understand Jones and all the other guys had many Hall of Famers around him, but so did Pierce. We would not even have this discussion if Garnett and Allen, both future members of the Basketball Hall of Fame (along with Pierce), didn’t join him in 2007.
Pierce is the best Celtic post-Bird, but you can’t put him ahead of a guy who had to have two championship rings sized to his thumbs.
And No. 6 might not be where “The Truth” ends up at. The Celtics still have guys like Kevin McHale and Dave Cowens.
And I know many of the readers wearing green and white are not pleased with me right now, but think of it this way: why do we have to squeeze Pierce into the top five?
What’s wrong with being a top-10 Celtic of all time?
I’m not picking on Pierce; he is simply the victim of being a part of the most historic and storied franchise in the history of basketball.
He is a top-five, arguably top-three, on any other team not named the Celtics and Lakers.
He’s not top-five; we’ve established that, but top-10? Absolutely.
It’s not a slight against “The Truth” as a player; he’s heading to Springfield to be enshrined five years after he retires.
In a franchise where 24 players that have worn a Celtics jersey have been elected to the Hall of Fame (28 once Pierce, Allen, Garnett and Shaq are elected), what’s so wrong with being in the top 10?
Terrence Payne may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org