BOSTON -- And on this day, the nickname of all nicknames around these parts was born.
Paul Pierce was a young, up-and-coming star in the NBA, a small forward with a big-time knack for getting buckets in a variety of ways.
Seventeen years ago on this date, the Inglewood, Calif., native was back home with the Celtics preparing to do battle against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center for the second time as a pro.
In his third season, it was Pierce’s third time playing in front of family and friends (twice against the Clippers, once against the Lakers) at the Staples Center. So, not surprisingly, there was a larger-than-usual Celtics presence in the stands.
In the three previous games, he put on a good show, averaging 22 points per game. But on this night, he didn’t just play well. He dominated the game in a way no one could have imagined.
Devean George. Rick Fox. Robert Horry. And yes, the Big fella Shaquille O’Neal, got served up by Pierce with an array of step-back jumpers, drives to the basket, dunks and 3-pointers with Pierce leaving the building having dropped 42 points.
As good as Pierce was, it wasn’t enough to get the victory as the Lakers squeaked out a 112-107 win.
The Celtics lost the game, but the foundation for one of the greatest players of the history of the franchise was just beginning to take shape.
And it came moments later in the postgame scrum from O’Neal, a loquacious man who delivered one of the best quotes of this generation that would become so much more than just a hot take:
“Take this down. My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherf***ing truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out.”
And on this day, the Truth was born.