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Paul Pierce, of the Boston Celtics - The Truth
Paul Pierce was a standout at Kansas before he entered the NBA in 1998 as the 10th overall pick. Some of the players picked ahead of him include number one pick, Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, and Robert Traylor. Feeling snubbed by his draft position, Pierce used it as motivation to improve his game. Pierce worked and worked to prove everyone wrong - that he deserved to be drafted higher. He put in extra work in the gym, reciting the name of each player drafted ahead of him, countless times, feeding off of his anger. He was determined to reach greatness.
Using that motivation, the small forward became a starter for the Celtics as a rookie and has been a starter ever since. As expected, he went through some growing pains. He suffered through his share of fairly awful teams. He adjusted to the NBA game and continuously improved. Pierce finished his rookie campaign with a scoring average of 16.5 points per game. He continued his ascension into the category of premiere players in his second season, finishing with an average of 19.5 points per game
Prior to the start of the 2000 season, his third in the league, Pierce was dealt a major setback. A late-night incident occurred in a nightclub in Boston, in which Pierce was stabbed a total of 11 times. Celtic teammate, Tony Battie, helped rush Pierce to a nearby hospital. The stabbing was near fatal. At the time, many anticipated that Pierce would never play again due to the injuries. Just weeks later Pierce was on the hardwood floor, starting for the Celtics. He ended up that season being the only player on the roster that appeared in every game of the season.
Not only did Pierce play that season, he erupted as a true force in the league, bringing his scoring average up to 25.3 points per game. It was also that season that he was given the nickname, "The Truth", by Shaquille O'Neal. After falling to the Los Angeles Lakers, O'Neal stated this about Pierce, "Take this down. My name is Shaquille O'Neal and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth." O'Neal had been impressed by the efficient game of Pierce, a game in which he scored 42 points. Paul Pierce was finally gaining the recognition and respect he deserved as a player with elite talent. Despite his individual success he was achieving, up to this point, Pierce was a good player on a bad team.
In 2002, Pierce lead the Celtics to their first playoff appearance in seven years. Pierce also was selected to the All-Star team for the first time in his career. Despite tremendous play from Pierce, the Celtics not make the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. Drastic changes were made to the roster and the formation of the Big Three was created with the additions of sharp-shooter Ray Allen and the extremely talented and productive Kevin Garnett. The Celtics instantly became legitimate championship contenders.
The Big Three, along with a strong supporting cast, returned glory to Boston by winning the NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008. It was fitting that Paul Pierce finally reached the pinnacle of his career by overcoming the hated Los Angeles Lakers. Not only that, Pierce out-dueled Kobe Bryantto earn the award of NBA Finals MVP. That season and championship run solidified Pierce as an NBA great. Pierce had endured years of frustration despite his personal achievements. Finally he was truly without a question, a champion.
On February 7th, 2012, Pierce surpassed Larry Bird on the leading scorer list for the Boston Celtics. Pierce is now second on the list, only behind John Havlicek. The Truth finished the game with 15 points. His career point total after the game was 21,797. It would likely take a few more seasons for Pierce to reach the 26,395 career points of Havlicek. Pierce made the 2012 All Star team as a reserve. It is his 10th time selected as an All Star.
After overcoming injury and playing out of shape in the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, Pierce came on strong in February and March. Pierce was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March in 2012. He averaged 22.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game in March and helped lead the Celtics to a 12-5 record for the month.