BOSTON – Paul Pierce was vintage Paul Pierce on Sunday, dropping verbal pearls of wisdom all day. On the day his jersey No. 34 would be retired, what else would you expect?
Here’s the transcript of Pierce’s comments following his jersey number being raised high above the TD Garden floor with the other Celtics legends.
Q: How emotional was tonight for you?
PP: “It’s tough. When I was sitting out here in the back ready to go out I was just sitting here and my hands were shaking. Originally, I had a speech, I wrote down some points, but then last minute I was just like I’m going to go out there and say what I feel and hopefully I don’t forget important names that were part of this journey. This is just a special day. If I never make the Hall of Fame or anything, to go up and make the rafters as a retired number for the Celtics that’s just enough, that’s enough for me. Everything else is icing on the cake.”
Q: Re: Your tears getting emotional
PP: “I got emotional when I talked about my kids because for them to just sit here, they didn’t’ get a chance to see most of my career. My daughter was born April of the year we won it, my first daughter, so they didn’t really get a chance. For them just to see their dad and how appreciated he was in the city and to be able to leave a legacy to be able to come back years down the line and say that’s my dad, my dad’s number is up there. That means a lot to me. They will one day, if they don’t realize it now, they will one day.”
Q: When did it hit you as a player that there might be a day like this?
PP: “That’s easy, that’s easy. When [Cedric) Maxwell went up, I knew I had a chance (laughs)! Just kidding, I always tell Maxwell that joke like oh if you made it, then I’m definitely up there! You don’t know, you don’t know until it happens. I just thought the only thing you can do is just work as hard as you can for as long as you can and at the end of the day, you see what happens. When Wyc (Grousbeck) gave me that call this summer I was on the freeway stuck in traffic and I was like woah. After I was done like I know it could happen, but it happened so fast and I’m like wow really! A year after I’m out playing, I’m just like, man, I’m going up into the rafters and leaving a legacy, something that is going to be forever. Like I said when you are forever with the Celtics you’re forever. It means so much, it means a lot. I always tell guys with the way the NBA landscape is and how the collective bargaining agreement is and player movement all the time and I had a chance to think about it, my number could be up there without another number going up there for a long time. I think the days that you see a player playing 10-15 years for one franchise if probably over so that could be really special. Who knows.”
Q: What do you remember from your draft night and compare those emotions to today?
PP: “I think I was a little more pissed off during draft night. I was like happy I made the NBA, but I went 10 and that was the start of it. People just knew my competitive spirit. I was ticked off in going 10 and I wanted to just prove to everybody that I’m a better player, but things happen for a reason. I ended up a Boston Celtic. What are the chances? It's like hitting the lottery. I’m a top-five pick, projected number two, there’s no way I’m going past five I haven’t even talked to teams past the fifth pick and I end up the 10th pick as a Boston Celtic. Just the irony in all that. Being from LA and not liking the Celtics and this is where I am. It was meant to be, things happen for a reason, it was meant to be.”
Q: What were you thinking when you were pulling those ropes with your family?
PP: “I was thinking about the last time I pulled ropes up there I was tearing up crying and I was trying not to cry. When we raised the Championship banner that’s when it all came out, it came out bad that day. I was just trying to hold it together and I just knew that when I first saw the banner lift and I saw it straight and I saw my number there it was like man all the years I walked into the gym every day I looked up and I saw empty spots and I saw all the other jersey numbers. Now I’m on there, now I’m on there, and that’s forever. It’s just like wow I’m there and now I can say that’s the finish, I did the trifecta. I left a legacy. I had my high school jersey retired, my college jersey retired, but there is no greater honor than having your NBA jersey retired for the Boston Celtics, no greater honor.”
Q: Can you elaborate on Doc Rivers conversation that you thought this day would happen and what you did talk about?
PP: “The more and more I look at Doc, Doc is like a semi-prophet sometimes. He’s like guys people predicted us to win the Championship, the following year we got it, he’s like no this year. He always talked about we’re going come back one day for me and Kevin [Garnett] retired jersey, this happened. The time we put a $100 in the ceiling and said we’re going to be back, that happened. Doc he knows a thing or two and maybe I should talk to him a little bit more, maybe he can tell the future, but he gives you the vision and once you get the vision and you start working for it that’s a great trait. You got to see it before it happens to accomplish anything great.”
Q: Re: Talk about winning a championship with the Celtics
PP: “We have more championships than any other professional sports franchise at least that I know of in America. A tradition that is unmatched, legendary players, Hall of Famers history and now I can be a part of that. My name is going to be mentioned in all of that now. The players who won a Championship, the players whose number goes in the rafters, I’m a part of history and there is no better history than that. This is a class A, level one franchise and the funny thing is that I don’t say it because I was here, it’s true. The Boston Celtics is a name you put respect with, a name you put history with, a name you put tradition with and now I’m a part of it.”
Q: What does it feel like seeing all these tributes from other player, rivals, etc.?
PP: “I didn’t expect that at all, especially coming from rivals and it just helps me realize the impact that I was able to have and the respect that I was given throughout the course of my career. Maybe not a lot of the national media looked at me a certain way, but the players around the league they know. They know when they had to play against Paul Pierce what type of night it was going to be, they know that it wasn’t going to be easy, they know that I was going to compete, and it was going to be tough. You hear that from the greats around the league. You’ve heard Kobe (Bryant) say it, you’ve heard LeBron (James) say it. I wasn’t a flashy player or had the commercials and top-selling shoes, but I was a player that was well respected, and people know when I came into the gym that they had to be ready also. For them to give the praise they gave that means a lot because Magic Johnson was my idol and Kobe Bryant was my rival, it means a lot.
Q: What does it mean to you that both Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge mentioned the jump ball you grabbed to clinch Game 7 against Cleveland (in 2008) as your most iconic play?
PP: “Because, you know, scoring was something I did great, and I think the lot of the things that I – the little things I did, really went unnoticed, but I considered myself a really good all-around player. It’s just that I had some scoring outbursts sometimes that just overshadowed all those other little things that I did. You know, I did. And then, there would be nights where I didn’t score and I just passed the ball, which I thought was pretty underrated. And to get recognized as one of the biggest plays was a hustle play, you know that says a lot. That just shows you that I was just a scorer. I did other things to try to help my ballclub win. I was willing to sacrifice, and it got to the point I didn’t really care too much about scoring. I knew I could score. But when I had other guys around me, I could show other parts of my game. The other parts of my game started to show when I got other talents around me. So now the pressure wasn’t on me to score. And I just showed that I was a better all-around player than what was perceived at first.”
Q: Do you miss playing on days like this, in an environment like this?
PP: “Oh, without a doubt. I mean, when you go out there and you sit right there, I was like talking to Wyc (Grousbeck) and like, I don’t – I feel – “This is weird,” I said. I sit in the front row. This is the first time, maybe, I’ve been in the Garden and sit in the front row, and not have a uniform on. It was weird. It definitely gave me chills. Especially with LeBron (James) out there. I wanted to be out there.”
Q: What do you think is your legacy?
PP: “Well, my legacy will be, obviously, being a Boston Celtic. But I want people to remember me about the things I was able to do in the community. Impacted lives I was able to change. Because at the end of the day, it’s more than basketball, to me. And I get that trait from my mother. You know, I was able to impact the city, not only on the court but off the court. And you saw the different tributes up there, some of the programs I had in the city. And a lot of people don’t really talk about that. And I get more from that, just when I see kids in the stands today, or kids that come up to me when I’m out and walking in the Boston Common like, ‘I was part of your program. You know, you really inspired me.’ Hopefully, I can just be an inspiration for the newer generation of kids moving forward. And that’s all. I was dedicated to the hard work. I wasn’t the flashiest, like I said, I wasn’t the highest jumping, but everybody knew I came to work and I worked hard every single day. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Q: What did it mean to hear Robert Parish call him the greatest offensive player in Celtics history? And what message would you give to children who are trying to live their dream?
PP: “Well, when you get a comment like that from a guy like Robert, who’s seen, who’s played with some of the best, and then you hear guys like Tommy Heinsohn, before Robert, who says similar things, it’s just – you know, these guys know, I’m not here to judge myself or put myself in any kind of category with any of the players of the past. And so, everything that comes out their mouth is a compliment for me. It’s an honor. Because these guys know the history. They’ve been a part of it. They know the players of yesteryear. And as far as what I want to tell the kids, what I said out there, just: You work hard, not to be better than the next man, but you work as hard as you can to get the best out of yourself. And that’s all you can ask for. If you work as hard as you can and get the best from yourself – and that doesn’t matter if it’s sports and anything you do, that you can accomplish anything you want. And I think I’m an example of that. I wasn’t a highly-recruited as a young player, like you see guys come up from sixth, seventh grade. I was a late bloomer. Came along, eleventh and twelfth-grade year. I just wanted to go to college. And you’ve got to have small, short-term goals to reach bigger goals. And when you accomplish those, you set another goal. And I just want the kids to know, just, nothing replaces hard work. Period.”
Q: On behalf of all of us (in the press room), congratulations!
PP: “Thank you, guys. It’s been a pleasure being around a lot of you who I’ve – faces who I’ve seen over the years, who’ve been here. Some of you guys have grown facial hair, some of you have put on gray hair, some of you have lost hair. But vice versa, me too. So, thank you, and it’s been an honor and a pleasure.”