Bradford: Why Paul Pierce did us all a favor

Rob Bradford
February 11, 2018 - 10:35 pm

USA Today Sports

Saturday night was crazy.

It started with Robert Parish offering the bold, albeit misguided, proclamation that Paul Pierce was the best offensive player in Celtics history. That was followed by an epic social media debate, led by a fired-up Bob Ryan. (Is there anything better than a fired-up Bob Ryan?)

While some might have been annoyed such a conversation immersed itself into Pierce's big weekend, it should have been welcome. Why? Because when it comes to immortalizing a Celtic everything comes back to Larry Bird. And what the tidal wave of Pierce memories did was make us realize this was a new generation's chance to get what Bird delivered to its elders.

Paul wasn't Larry, but he was close enough. That's a pretty good gift.

To understand the importance of Pierce I think it's imperative we remember what Bird meant to my world.

You tried to play like Bird. You tried to act like Bird. Your favorite number was 33 without a close second. You found no issues at all in paying an absurd amount of money to attend a number retirement that stood on its own. You called Larry's mother's house while working at your summer job. (For some reason the number was listed.)

There wasn't another athletic role model like him. It was fun running around like Doug Flutie when playing pickup football, and imitating the batting stances of those 1980's Red Sox while playing Wiffleball was a feather in the cap. Bird was different. He represented what we could all become with our limited athletic ability, and that really, really resonated.

Pierce gave all of that to the next wave of Celtics fans.

"I cried when he was stabbed!" -- Ryan Hannable, WEEI.com.

That's what I'm talking about. Hannable was in the wheelhouse of this fandom of which we speak. He, unfortunately, has to lean on YouTube clips for debates involving Bird. But he does know Pierce, and those feelings are what made such celebrations as Sunday's number raising so genuine. 

At our recreational league-best, we strive to play like Pierce did. Economical excellence. Remind you of someone?

Covering Pierce in the early 2000's I never thought these sort of platitudes would be sent his way. In my mind, this was a guy who didn't deserve to be named captain when he was. (Antoine Walker was the stand-up guy of the two back then.) And the occasional hints of selfishness weren't suggesting any comparisons to Bird. But a compromise was ultimately made, leading us down this path.

I became more forgiving of this star trudging through life on less-than-inspiring Celtics teams. And Pierce proved to be Bird-esque once the opportunity arose upon the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. We landed at a good place.

Paul Pierce reminded us a little of Larry Bird, and that's the best retirement gift any Celtic could ever hope for.

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