NBA / May 19, 2008 / 8:46 am

The ‘Greatest Pure Scoring Machine in Celtics History’


In this morning’s Boston Globe, Bob Ryan says that it’s Paul Pierce, not Bird, McHale, or any other great in the 16-championship history of this franchise who takes the crown.

Every once in a while Pierce reminds us that he is the greatest pure scoring machine in Celtics history. Many old-timers bristle when you say that, citing John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, or whomever. But it just happens to be the truth.

He can get his own shot, which is a major plus. He is an extremely proficient, highly ambidextrous, driver. He takes a lot of free throws. He is a constant 3-point threat. And he is the best fast break finisher the team has ever had. No argument.

There is an argument. I understand loving Pierce after the 41-point game 7 takeover for the ages, but a better scorer than Bird? Here are some important metrics:

– Pierce is a 44.2% FG on his career, Bird is a 49.6% FG on his career.
– Bird finished in the top 10 in points per game six times, Pierce has done it five already.
– Pierce has finished in the top 10 in ‘Player Efficiency Rating’ three times. Bird finished as #1, twice.
– When looking at their offensive production, the biggest difference is that 18% of Bird’s total offensive production came from the free throw line, while Pierce has gotten 27% of his points at the stripe. Pierce needs to get to the line to have his scoring machine working on all cylinders, but Bird didn’t.

“Paul Pierce is one of my favorite players,” said LeBron. “I always say, second to Kobe Bryant, he has some of the best footwork I’ve ever seen in a player. I love going against the best, and Paul Pierce is one of those guys.”

He’s 30 right now. If Pierce hovers around that 20-point per game mark for just over three years, he’ll surpass Bird in total of points scored. Maybe if he has a championship ring to go with those superior stats, the argument will look a lot more convincing.

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  • stanaeciouz


  • http://GeeC2.com GEE…first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo..

    That is straight disrespect to Bird man. Come on now. Larry was ill. P-Dub was amazing and has spurts where he shows brilliance but he ain’t what Larry was.

    Larry was straight crucial. I remember when he took out my Rockets, when they had the Twin Towers Sampson and Dream. Larry was on his ish all through-out.

    I agree with DIME perhaps in a few years if he keeps on getting down with the get down. As of right now, Bob Ryan needs to be beat down with some pillow cases full of bars of soap for disrespecting the Bird.

  • Ross

    That’s a pretty bold statement for only one break-out playoff performance.

  • fallinup

    Eh, this brings about the comparisons between what a “scorer” is and a “shooter” is. Pierce is a straight scorer, he can find his own shot, work anywhere on the floor and can get to the foul line…he may not have the best shooting % at the end of the game, but he’s a closer none the less. Bird was a versatile shooter. He could shoot anywhere on the court, and it almost always looked good…but he couldn’t find his own shot like Pierce can. That’s the argument Bob Ryan is trying to make I think. And I can see where he’s coming from.

    As far as best ever?? I hate how folks try to compare players from different eras…there’s just so much to take into effect, and any one side of the argument is valid.

  • Sam I Am

    Why do people love disrespecting and forgetting the greats

    Paul Pierce is amateur at best compared to those who paved the way for him to don the Green and White of Boston…

    He’s good don’t get me wrong but he’s not better than Bird

  • http://GeeC2.com GEE…first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo..

    fallin that is to say Bird didn’t have to find his own shot though to some degree cause he could “shoot”.

    I get what you saying Bob might be saying and I agree comparing eras is not fair cause it’s to much to consider and to many variables.

    Still on a basic level I would say Bird is still the better. Don’t forget consistency.

  • PALakerFan

    Bob Ryan is falling prey to the current love affair with the Celts, and forgetting how incredible Bird was. Bird was slow but he could definitely get his own shot off anytime he wanted. Pierce is very good but Bird was GREAT! And I say that as someone who hated him when he was in his prime throwing daggers at my Lakers. He could’ve averaged 30 PPG if he wasn’t so unselfish.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/djkianoosh djKianoosh

    I was shocked bob ryan would say this, but look carefully again at his exact words. He’s not saying Pierce is a better shooter than Bird, Havlicek, etc.. He said “scoring machine’ which is very different. Bird was certainly the better shooter. But Bird did a lot more than just score. Intangibles are what made Bird great, a champion (this is coming from a sixers fan, mind you). I still think Bird was a better scorer than pierce, but I do see the argument. Pierce can create scoring opportunities with great footwork and strength and savvy. At that stature, you’d have to seriously nitpick each of their games to get one to come out on top, but Bird’s rings trump anything Pierce has done to date. Let PP get one ring and then we’ll talk.

  • bsteezy3

    OK, now they are taking it a bit too far. C’mon man, Pierce is better than Bird? I can’t believe Bob Ryan wrote that! (He’s an older guy too…) Like SAM I AM said, these guys are disrespecting the greats. Just a few days ago, this very website was saying Pierce wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. I think they made a 1-on-5 fast break comparison. I like Paul Pierce, in fact, I liked him a lot since he came in the league, but there is no way he’s better than Bird.
    I’m not even a huge Bird fan, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Pierce had a good game in all (finally), but Bird ALWAYS showed up in playoff games. I can’t believe I’m defending LARRY BIRD! Jeez…

  • alex

    after averaging 16pts in the series, he scores 41 and suddenly he’s the greatest pure scorer boston ever had?

    pure comedy.

  • QQ

    Nah, he ain’t. Yeah, he scored 40 on some playoff games, but damn, Larry Bird could freaking average 40 in any playoff series if he wanted to. But Bird was such an excellent passer, he wouldn’t ruin the offense just to get his.

  • boo boo mcgee

    as mentioned earlier, he’s not saying pierce is a better player or even a shooter, but there is a valid argument with the preformances pierce has put on in the league including last nite and over his career that he is a better pure scorer than anyone in celtics history……… Shooter vs Scorer we all know the difference

  • the_don_mega

    the hick from fench lick is on a whole diff level…
    that guy is a pure TACTICIAN…
    like most of the greats from that era…
    bird would disect the opponent with sheer brilliance…
    he’ll measure the opponent and get them from pt a to pt b…

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/djkianoosh djKianoosh

    as a bball junkie, i’d love to get a breakdown of his footwork from last night’s game. espn won’t give that to you. maybe doug collins or hubie brown might. kenny’s pictures maybe? anyway, i think that would be interesting. but i might be in the minority…

  • http://www.barackobama.com Jim

    I don’t see his argument. Scoring machine? Isn’t that basically mid-80s McHale’s definition? Either way, he’s getting the hits, Bob Ryan is the greatest scoring machine in Boston website history!

  • Remy Nguyen

    Talk to me after Double P wins a champion and when he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

  • BxBaller

    Perfect example of the media. If the Celtics lose last night, they would’ve been throwing Pierce under the bus for playing selfish over the past two games. However since the C’s win, here comes the Pierce man love.

  • BxBaller

    Btw, now hating on Pierce, I’m glad he sent the BronBot home for the summer.

  • Remy Nguyen

    PS……..Bird came to play every day, not just the 4th quarter. What about leadership qualities?

  • http://Dimemag.com Student of the Game

    Bob Ryan said Pierce is the greatest pure SCORING machine in Celtics history… Not shooter. Im not gonna front like i know how Larry Legend played but can anyone fill me in on if they ever saw Larry take someone off the dribble? Pure shooting wise it’s Larry without a doubt, but with my limited knowledge on Larry’s off the dribble skills I will have to say this is a fair argument.

  • DaPro

    As far as pure scoring I think you an make a case for the Truth. 4get last night, I mean look at his entire career.

    Bird is a better ball player but for pure scoring Pierce can get his at will.

    Where he falls off at is the same problem Kobe has (had??)

    Can score against anyone and takes one or one matchups personal. Makes bad decisions because he is too focused on the duel with the other teams best player.

    Truth made great decisions yesterday but a few times he was bailed out by a blocking call. He can get his no question, as a scorer he is on par with Bird but not his all around game.

  • DaPro

    As pure scoring goes you can make a case for a few playas

    Kobe is a better scorer than Mike. I’m born and raised in the Chi and have never been a Kobe fan but I’ve come to that realization.

    Mike is and will be the better all around playa no question but as far as outright scoring Kobe gets the nod

  • Tim

    does Paul Pierce tell the opponent exactly where he’s gonna go on the floor, then shoot the shot straight in his face? Xavier McDaniel had that happen to him against Bird…

  • Big Shot BOB

    No way his better than Larry Legend. Not without the rings. Remember that Larry Bird vs Michael Jordan shoot it from any where in the arena? The Jordan vs. Bird video games from back in the sega genesis days. This guy was getting compared to the greatest…come on now not even close!!! Three best players of the airness era Jordan, Magic, Bird!!!!

  • johnsacrimoni

    How old are all yoy guys, 7? I’m only 28 and even I remember how Larry Bird played. Please, he didn’t just spot up for 3s like Allen does and you all think he did. He took people off the dribble, too. Two points is two points. This whole argument is absolutely ridiculous.

  • DaPro

    To me a scorer has an arsenal of moves and creates space where there is none

    Bird is gifted as a basketball talent and could shoot you out the gym. Made the most out of his game

    Truth to me is purely a scorer, thats what he does

  • D.I. Dollar

    It wasn’t too long ago that Paul was being considered one of the top scorers in the league behind Kobe. Larry was money, but Paul does it all. I know you can’t compare eras without a lot of speculation, but it’s my opinion that Larry would get no run in todays League. Pauls the best ever in Boston because he was there through the ROUGH times. Larry was a Legend, but there’s no denying the Truth.

  • You Can’t Handle the “Truth”

    Michael Jordan – Great Scorer
    Larry Bird – Great Scorer
    Kobe Bryant – Scorer
    Oscar Robinson – Pure
    Jerry West – Pure
    Reggie Miller – Pure
    Mitch Richmond – Scorer
    Bernard King – Pure
    Jamaal Wilkes – Pure
    Adrian Dantley – Pure
    World B Free – Scorer
    George Gervin – Pure
    Elvin Hayes – Scorer
    Dominique Wilkens – Scorer
    Alex English – Pure Shooter
    Glen Rice – Pure
    Allen Iverson – Great Scorer
    Paul Pierce – Scorer

  • PALakerFan

    D.I. Dollar…you are either an idiot or 22 years old. Bird had one of the best all around games – ever. In 13 seasons he averaged 24/10/6. Pierce – 23/6/4. His last season he could barely play because of his back and averaged 20/10/7. He could and did take people off the dribble. At 6’9″ he could play SF or PF and would still be able to put up huge numbers in today’s league. He was one of the true greats of all-time. Even back then, he didn’t look athletic enough to do what he did. Ask Michael Cooper or Dr. J.

    Also, Pierce sucked most of this series. Bird never took 5 out of 7 games of a series off.

  • K Dizzle

    Wow!!! What PALake said. This is the stupidest article ever written. Basin this junk on one game is ridiculous. Did Bob Ryan write this after the Bird vs. Dominique game 7 shootout in ’88? If he didn’t, then he needs to scrap this article. Larry Bird was a scorin machine who could shoot, but sayin Pierce is better after strugglin against the Hawks then strugglin against the Cavs before turnin it on for one game is blasphemy.

  • http://www.barackobama.com Jim

    *Today’s league has zone defense, no hand checking, and a shorter 3.

    Deadbeat Larry would be lighting this place up.

  • http://www.barackobama.com Jim

    ugggh, showing my age. But 2/3.

  • doc

    dollar is a dickhead.And last I checked shooting the ball was scoring so Bird was is and will always be better than Paul.

  • Brad

    why are chips even being mentioned in a debate about the ability to score? chips are won by teams, not individuals. read dwyer’s recap in yahoo! if bird played in some of the teams pierce played for, i think he’d have a hard time getting past the 1st round.

    as for the real debate about who’s the best scorer, i admit, i’m not old enough to remember bird. i agree that if he wasn’t so unselfish he would’ve been the celtics’ all-time leading scorer. but he wasn’t. last time i checked though he was pretty good scorer too.

    i’m a pierce fan and as much as i’d like to think he’s the celts’ greatest scorer, it’s probably nothing more than an overreaction to 1 really good game. he needs to do it a couple more times to truly justify the argument. that said, these kinds of debates are definitive anyway.

  • KevinNYC

    If I remember correctly Bird could get his own shot anytime he wanted. I remember Bird routinely posting up about 12-15 feet from the basket, defender right on his hip. Turn-around J. All net. Next trip Bird posted same spot. Defender even tighter. Step back, dribble. Baseline J from 20. All net. Third trip, defender giving him no space at all. Up fake. Defender bites. Layup Bird.

    Then Bird would get tired of abusing the defender and pass down low to McHale or out to Ainge.

    Bird once had 24 points in a quarter.

    I never saw Halvicek live, but I think an argument can be made for Kevin McHale being a better scorer than Pierce. Barkeley calls him the “best player I ever guarded.” Pierce’s career high is 50 points. McHale’s is 56. McHale had two seasons with a field goal percentage of over .600. He had a nearly a two month stretch where his percentage was over .700! Pierce’s avg this playoff run is under 20ppg. McHale had a playoff run in a championship year where was averaging 24 ppg. This is all when McHale was not the first option on his team.

    But then again we’re comparing different positions and different eras; the Celtic teams of 80’s averaged well over a 100 points a game and those days of the NBA are over.