Paul Pierce has come to a crossroads in his storied NBA career.
With 18 seasons already under his belt, The Truth has the option to either play another year with the Los Angeles Clippers, or he can choose to call it a career, hang up his sneakers and look ahead to retirement.
After L.A. made a first-round exit in last year’s playoffs, Paul told the media that he wanted to take his time with the decision instead of making a quick call on his future.
“Each and every year for the last couple years, I’ve thought long and hard about walking away from the game,” Paul said. “The process is going to continue this summer, as I think long and hard, step closer to getting older in age. (It’s) seeing how my body feels, talk to my family. I just don’t want to make an emotional decision right now. I’ll just take some time off, sit down with my family and think long and hard.”
Since the Clippers were ousted in late April, Paul has portioned his time out and enjoyed another offseason split between family fun, with birthday parties and island vacations, and future endeavors, as a guest analyst for the NBA Finals and an ambassador for the league during a trip to China. But the summer winding down, Paul will soon have to make and official decision on what his future holds.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at how he got to this point in the first place.
Paul was selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1998 NBA Draft and wasted little time making an impact, averaging 16.5 points per game while starting 47 games his rookie season. By year three in the league, No. 34 had pushed that scoring average up to 25.3 points per contest. It was during that season when The Truth was born. Paul exploded for 42 points in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, famously earning “The Truth” moniker from one of the best players in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal.
But it wasn’t until his fourth NBA season that Paul really started to emerge as one of the league’s stars. It was during that season that he earned the first of his 10 All-Star nods, averaging a near career-high 26.1 points per game.
More importantly, he led the Celtics to their first winning record in eight seasons and their first playoff berth in six, guiding them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. From that point on, Boston became a playoff staple for much of the remainder of Paul’s tenure in Beantown.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, Paul sixth in the league, Boston acquired All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to team up with The Truth. With the Big 3 firmly in tact, the C’s raced to the 2008 NBA Finals and captured the 17th championship in franchise history, defeating the Lakers in six games. Paul was crowned the Finals MVP after averaging 21 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in the postseason.
Paul and the C’s picked up the 2008-09 season right where they left off, setting an NBA record for the best start to that date at 27-2. But Garnett went down with an injury, and without the Big 3 intact, the Celtics didn’t make it past the second round.
The Big 3 officially dismantled when Allen left for the Miami Heat prior to the 2012-13 season, and the remaining two, Paul and Garnett, were traded to the Brooklyn Nets the following year. Still, Paul’s legacy lives on in Boston. When he left, he was first in franchise history in three-pointers and free throws, second in points scored and third in games played.
While in Brooklyn, Paul refined his role as a defender at the power forward spot, putting up solid numbers on both ends of the floor with 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. His stats remained strong in the postseason, including an epic performance in Game 7 of a first round playoff series win over the Toronto Raptors, but the Nets ultimately fell to the would-be champion Heat in the second round.
The Truth spent just a season with the Nets after which he moved on to the Washington Wizards. Despite his short time in the nation’s capital, Paul’s impact in D.C. was undeniable. He quickly grew to be a fan favorite with his confident, veteran mentality, best highlighted by Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where No. 34 added another legendary story to his legacy.
With the clock winding down and three Atlanta Hawks defenders guarding Paul, he banked home the winning triple. Afterward, ESPN’s Chris Broussard asked, “Did you call bank?” In true Paul Pierce fashion, he answered, “I called game.”
Paul finished the postseason, averaging 14.6 points and 4.2 boards through 10 games, but Washington was also eliminated in the second round as Brooklyn had been in his lone season there.
After that season, Paul opted out of his contract with the Wizards to go home to Los Angeles, signing with the Clippers over the summer. The Truth was reunited with his former coach, Doc Rivers, and the two had their eyes on another championship. Although Paul posted career statistical lows, his veteran leadership was pivotal in Clippers’ postseason quest.
“(Paul) has given me an opportunity to be quiet a lot of times because he’s always talking,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “It’s been fun having another veteran like that, that extra voice in the locker room, and just the confidence that comes with Paul.”
Together, the Clips notched the third seed before succumbing to injuries in the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“You saw it in everybody’s eyes – this group didn’t have no quit in them no matter what the circumstances were,” Paul said after the decisive Game 6. “It didn’t take away from the guys’ effort. … I’m proud of everybody. It was great being able to play with a good group of guys like this.”
Now, with his 18th season in the rearview mirror, The Truth can choose to either write another chapter in his storied NBA career and play another season with the Clips, or he can venture out on a new journey and explore what retirement has to offer.
The Truth got a taste of what his post-playing days could be like when he joined ESPN’s NBA Countdown for this year’s NBA Finals between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paul was the only one on set to serve up the truth, predicting the Cavs to take the title over the favorited Warriors.
Wow But I told u guys congrats to Cavs one of the best series ever Cavs 1st team Nba history down 3-1 to win 1-32
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) June 20, 2016
Whatever Paul decides to do, he will forever be remembered, simply as The Truth.