Paul Pierce was a first round pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1998 NBA Draft. He played three seasons of college basketball as a member of the University of Kansas Jayhawks, finishing his junior season with averages of 20.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and a spot on the All-America First Team. Though he was projected to be selected earlier, Pierce slipped to the Boston Celtics who grabbed him with the tenth pick in the draft. Twelve years later, Pierce is the organization’s third leading scorer of all time and a future Hall of Famer.
In his rookie season, Paul Pierce made an immediate impact for the Boston Celtics. He earned a spot on the 1999 All-Rookie First Team with averages of 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. After five straight seasons of below-.500 basketball, Pierce gave the Celtics a second star along with then team leader Antoine Walker. Three seasons later, Pierce and Walker led the Celtics to a .600 record and their first conference finals appearance since the 1980s.
The road to stardom and success wasn’t a clean one for Pierce. Just weeks before his third NBA season in 2000-01, Pierce was the victim of a serious assault in which he suffered several stab wounds and barely escaped alive. Without missing a beat, he not only returned to play all 82 games of the season, but did so averaging breakout numbers including averages of 25.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.7 steals. In his return, he became the first Celtic to score more than 2,000 points in a season since Larry Bird in 1987-88.
In recognition of his emergence as an offensive force, Paul Pierce made his first All-Star team and All-NBA team in 2002. He led the Celtics to 49 wins and the Eastern Conference Finals. Pierce teamed up with Antoine Walker for only one more season with the Celtics winning one more playoff series and finishing short of back-to-back conference finals appearances.
With a shrinking supporting cast, Pierce remained the focal point of Boston’s offense. Between 2000 and 2007, he posted seven straight seasons of at least 20 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game. In 2004 and 2005, the Celtics made the playoffs, but were ousted in the first round; in the next two seasons, they failed to reach the postseason.
2006-07 was a disastrous season in which Pierce missed 35 games and the Celtics finished with the second worst record in the NBA. During the offseason, the team made a series of moves, revitalizing the franchise by bringing in perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Now joined by two other elite players, Pierce’s Celtics were primed for a resurgence.
With a handful of stars sharing the same team, there were fewer shots to go around for each, but plenty of success to make up for it. The 2007-08 Boston Celtics improved from the second worst record to the very best, winning 66 regular season games to return to postseason play. With averages of 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, Pierce helped lead the Celtics to their first NBA Championship in 22 years.
With Pierce leading the scoring attack, the Celtics remained an elite team for each of the next two seasons. At the 2010 All-Star Game, Pierce added to his career accolades by becoming a three-point shooting champion; before he took home the hardware, the last Celtics to win the three-point contest was Larry Bird in 1988. Come the 2010 playoffs, Pierce and the Celtics are once again going to the NBA Finals.
Paul Pierce is an eight-time All-Star and the third leading scorer in Boston Celtics history. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in three point baskets and ranks among the top-10 active NBA players in threes, points, steals, and free throws.