Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

If Paul Pierce is in the news these days, it's usually for one of two reasons: 1) It's the anniversary of one of his great performances; or 2) He delivered a highly questionable basketball take.

Tuesday night brought us No. 2.

During a spirited debate on ESPN's "NBA Countdown" about the best NBA players of all time, the former Boston Celtics star listed several players who weren't LeBron James.

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"Bill Russell built up the organization in Boston. He should get way more credit than we give him, and a lot of times he gets left out of the conversation," Pierce said. "So in saying that, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Magic (Johnson), (Michael) Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe (Bryant), (Larry) Bird. These guys are all-time top 10 players who either helped build up their organization or continued the tradition."

In Pierce's view, James doesn't belong in that same conversation because he loaded his championship teams with stars rather than build them from the ground up.

"He went and put together a team in Miami, and in some ways, he came back to Cleveland to put that team together, and then he went to the Lakers, where a tradition has already been made," Pierce said.

So, is Pierce really saying James isn't one of the five best basketball players of all time? Why yes, he is.

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"You wanna hear my top five? You want to hear it again?" Pierce continued. "Jordan, Kareem, Russell. And you know who the fourth one is? Magic. Now you know who’s in my top five? Kobe Bryant.

"That’s my top five. Argue with it."

The internet happily obliged, as professional athletes and casual fans alike ripped Pierce for his anti-LeBron slander.

As many pointed out, Pierce isn't exactly an impartial observer: His Celtics had several playoff battles with James' Cavaliers and Heat teams, a handful of which LeBron won.

James also effectively broke up Boston's "Big Three" when he scored 31 points in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, as Ray Allen signed with Miami that following offseason.

So, "The Truth" may have an agenda in leaving James out of his top five -- and the internet is letting him have it.

Scottie Pippen: Celtics' Jayson Tatum capable of being best player on an NBA champion

Scottie Pippen: Celtics' Jayson Tatum capable of being best player on an NBA champion

Jayson Tatum has received plenty of praise during the 2019-20 NBA season for raising his game to an All-Star level, and one NBA legend is confident the Boston Celtics forward is capable of taking his talents even higher.

The Boston Celtics will enter the league's 22-team restart at Walt Disney World Resort later this month as one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. ESPN's Jalen Rose was among the first national voices after the restart format was announced to predict the Celtics were capable of going on a deep playoff run. He even picked the C's to win the conference and reach the 2020 NBA Finals.

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For the Celtics to make the Finals and contend for the franchise's 18th championship, Tatum likely will have to carry the team as its best player and go-to scorer. Chicago Bulls legend and current ESPN NBA analyst Scottie Pippen thinks Tatum is ready to take on that challenge.

Here's what Pippen said on ESPN's "The Jump".

Rachel Nichols: "Do you think Jayson Tatum is already, now, capable of carrying that best player on a championship team title?"

Pippen: "Rachel, I really do. I think this has been a breakout season for Tatum. He started out this season sort of on a mission to separate himself from the other players who've grown and developed, as well as really showing some leadership by becoming an All-Star this season. His scoring was really starting to peak right there (before the season was paused) -- he again separated himself a little bit from the other players to show he was going to be the go-to guy, the offensive leader for that team. I think if this team is to make a run, it has to rely on Tatum's ability to carry them offensively, and I feel like he's totally ready."

It's impressive when a six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer gives you this kind of praise. It's deserved, too.

Tatum, particularly during his dominant month of February, was going to toe-to-toe with some of the league's best players and putting up crazy stats. One of the games that stands out is the Celtics' thrilling double-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers right before the All-Star break. Tatum scored 39 points and outdueled reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

The 22-year-old forward has shown he's capable of being the best player on a title contender, but he won't have to do it alone. The Celtics are the only team with three players (Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker) averaging 20-plus points per game, and Gordon Hayward isn't far behind with 17.3 points scored per game. Boston has great scoring depth, and with Tatum and Walker able to create their shot in any situation during crunch time, C's head coach Brad Stevens has plenty of options late in games when his team needs a bucket.

Celtics apparently brought awesome NBA title inspiration to practice

Celtics apparently brought awesome NBA title inspiration to practice

The Boston Celtics quite literally had their eyes on the prize Monday, it appears.

Celtics big man Vincent Poirier shared a video on his Instagram story Monday that appeared to show Boston's 2008 NBA championship trophy at the Auerbach Center.

How's that for some inspiration?

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The Celtics haven't won an NBA title since Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the 2007-08 C's captured the team's 17th championship.

Many believe Boston can compete for a title during the NBA's restarted season in Orlando, however. Kemba Walker has had several months to rest his injured knee, while Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart give the Celtics impressive depth at both ends of the floor.

The C's were the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference when the 2019-20 season halted in mid-March, but it many ways all bets are off entering an unprecedented playoff format that will be played in a neutral location without fans.

NBA teams are set to travel to Orlando this week to begin ramping up for the "seeding round" in late July. The Celtics' entire team is on board at the moment, and now the squad has some extra motivation as it gets set to enter the bubble.