Featured Gallery, NBA / Feb 27, 2012 / 2:30 pm

Paul Pierce, Larry Bird & The Lies Nostalgia Told You

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce, Dime #5

Athletes tell lies. Agents tell damn lies. And sportswriters use statistics.

It’s been three long weeks since Paul Pierce eased on by Larry Bird on the Boston Celtics career scoring list and tucked comfortably behind John Havlicek into second place – a moment that, although hastily swept away in the avalanche that is/was Linsanity, still marks the high point of Boston’s so-far sluggish Atlantic Division title defense.

Midway through his 14th NBA season, Pierce has scored 21,921 points officially, plus another 2,351 in the playoffs. And although Boston coach Doc Rivers and Pierce himself led the chorus of voices attributing too much of Pierce’s feat to longevity and not enough to skill, there’s no reason to throw any asterisks or proverbial wet blankets on what the man has done.

But because it’s 2012 and every sports achievement must be ranked five seconds after it’s been filed, the celebration for Pierce was cut short just so some media types (professional and social) could needlessly remind the world that scoring more points than Bird does not mean Pierce is better than Bird. That in fact, Pierce orbits nowhere near the same planet on which Bird and his legacy reside in basketball lore.

It’s a lie. A damn lie.

Now I won’t sit here and claim Pierce is a better player than Bird was. I don’t believe that. But I do believe that the gap between the two generation-defining Celtics is not as cavernous as many people – writers, TV analysts, fans, ex-players, Bird devotees and Cheers patrons – would have you believe.

I only wish I could use more than statistics to pose a strong argument. For a moment, though, consider this:

In 13 seasons playing with a rotating cast of Hall of Fame teammates – from Dave Cowens and Tiny Archibald in his rookie year to Kevin McHale and Robert Parish during his farewell tour – Bird won three NBA championships (with two Finals MVPs). After he turned 30, Bird never made it back to the Finals.
Pierce has played on teams with multiple future Hall of Famers – Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo (don’t count him out yet) – during just four of his 13 full seasons, not counting this one. In those four years, Pierce won one NBA championship and copped Finals MVP. He was 30 years old then, and led Boston to the Finals at 32.

So in other words, when Pierce has been surrounded by a championship-caliber team – a luxury Bird enjoyed for essentially his entire career – he has proven to be just as successful a winner as Larry Legend. And while I hate to use “if” in situations like this, isn’t it reasonable to believe that if Pierce had played with the likes of KG and Allen for the bulk of his 20s, he’d have a couple more championship rings?

Pierce has career averages of 22.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his day. In his best season (2001-02), Pierce was good for 26.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists, hitting 44 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. In his best season (’84-85), Bird was good for 28.7 points, 10.5 boards and 6.6 assists, hitting 52 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and 88 percent from the line.

Stay with me now…

So if we put two small forwards head-to-head in an NBA game, and one of them went for 24-10-6 while the other one posted 22-6-3, would you say that Player A dominated Player B? Of course not. If the matchup ended 28-10-6 to 26-6-3, would you call it a blowout? I doubt it.

But try to suggest any scenario other than Pierce getting completely and utterly eviscerated by Bird head-to-head and see how your audience reacts. Some of your more fervent types will claim that Bird could outplay Pierce right now, with Larry creaking around at 55 and Pierce still playing at an All-Star level.

For his part, Bird recently went on record about Pierce to the Boston Herald: “He’s a great scorer, and he won a championship, so he’s right there with the rest of us, as far as I’m concerned.”

Then there’s Hall of Fame basketball writer Bob Ryan, who called Pierce the greatest scoring machine in Celtics history four years before Pierce passed Bird’s point total. In Sean Sweeney‘s Dime #62 feature on Pierce from 2011, Ryan said, “Havlicek ran without the ball. He wasn’t a one-on-one player. Larry had guys that could guard him and make him take shots that he didn’t want to take and at times, keep him from getting the ball. That was a fact. Pierce, you don’t have any recollections of that. If he wants the ball, he gets the ball. He gets it. You can clear out with him very confidently. He can get at the very least a reasonable shot, at the best, a great shot for him. If he doesn’t, he has a chance to get to the free throw line because that’s his other option, which he is great at. What more do you want?”

Pages : 1 2 3
Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • hi

    Its obviously because Paul Pierce is black, so everyone thinks Larry Bird is better.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    What kinda Tom foolery is this? Austin….you must’ve have been on Heroin when you wrote this bullshyt. I hear that’s the drug of choice now n days. Don’t worry, i’ll pray for you.

  • north

    I agree with some of what you’re saying, or trying to say. I think the only counter I have to this is the heart that many players have today, Truth included, will never be at the Bird/Magic level. The fact that until late in their careers they HATED each other (and are open about it) made them play at levels that guys now can’t reach. I think that’s why many people like watching the Pierce/Bryant games is because they’re the closest to that.
    The NBA needs the hate to get the product back that the early ’80s had. I don’t want my team hugging the other before the games. A quick hand slap with a sideways look is much better.

  • Banga

    @north… IF you watched the all star game it’s pretty evident the miami heat Trio hate Kobe… If we get a Lakers Heat finals you will definitely see the hate

  • kingralf

    great piece, austin!

  • north

    @Banga I did see LeBron and Kobe messing around chatting before the game and laughing with each other. Same with after the game. Wade, no, I think he does hate Kobe… not as much as Pierce but it’s there.

  • ctk

    i like this article …there is ALOT of NOSTAGLIA n NBA arguments

  • VC sux A$$

    Good article Austin! I agree with you that due to the advancements in conditioning, nutrition, rehabilitation, scouting, and coaching, we have an overall product that’s far superior to the past. But, I believe skill level, heart/work ethic, team work, and leadership are the generational commonalities that all True Champions share, and most of today’s NBA stars lack. Champions like Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, and Dirk Nowitzki have proven that athleticism doesn’t equate to champion status. None of them are all-world athletes, but all of them are all-world champions because of the aforementioned attributes that they all share. Big question is, how do you teach these qualities to the bigger, stronger, and faster ballers of today (i.e. Lebron, Melo, and Vince Carter)? That’s why Jordan and Kobe are on another level, because they not only had the all-world athleticism, but the attributes of great champions…

  • Celts Fan

    @AB – good read, but come on now. OF COURSE LARRY’S TEAMS HAD MORE HOF’ers, that was before they expanded, adding 7 teams since the late 80s (starting w/ the 4-team expansion that incl. the Heat) Also, Larry won 3 straight MVPs, 3 chips, lost in the Finals various other times, and was the unequivocal best player on one of the 3-5 best teams of all time (rank ‘em how you want, the ’84 Celtics have to be in there somewhere,) and had to retire due to a bad back, so how could he have any stats into his 30s when he was dealing with that. Maybe you should juxtapose how much better Larry may’ve had it had they had today’s medical care.

    oh, and guys like Rudy would just be 4s in the old days (Chuck, Big Game James, etc) instead of being crazy 3s. Guys get this big due to newer workout technology/equipment/suppliments, etc that, had the older guys had available to them, would’ve helped them just as much. Aren’t you the guy that, when arguing one era vs. another, has your great theory on the evolution of the game? As in, Bob Cousy only dribbled right, but a dude that talented (clear-cut best PG ever when he hung ‘em up) would’ve had no problem learning crossovers and whatnot had he grown up in this era? Doesn’t seem like it was mentioned here about why guys are bigger. ]

    I love Paul Pierce, and he’s on the short list of greatest Celtics, but the top of that list is Russell and Larry, 2 of the 5 best ever, and Paul ain’t getting there. Ever.

  • Celts Fan

    @VC – agreed whole-heartedly, and with the influx of HSers and now 1-and-dones, lots of guys are getting here lacking the fundamentals (everyone in DC is nodding right now) and basketball IQ needed to win. We all had this convo about awful playground games, but we can all agree that fundamentals and team play will always top crazy athleticism with no direction.

    oh, and Dwight and Hakeem would be a fun match-up, but Hakeem is infinitely better than Dwight will ever be in the all-time rankings. He was almost as good of a defender and AMAZING offensively. Dwight still has zero reliable post moves and an average-at-best ability to pass out of double teams. Would Hakeem drop 60 on Dwight? No, course not, but that doesn’t mean that Hakeem’s not head and shoulder’s (and torso and waist…) above Dwight as a player. Hakeem as your main guy can win you a title, meanwhile Dwight is a superstar role-player (he’s just a GREAT defender/rebounder and hustle guy. Most of his points come on put-backs; a real superstar can create their own shot and has an offensive game that extends beyond arm’s reach of the basket)

  • Celts Fan

    My point above isn’t knocking Dwight, he’s the best center in the league, my point was knocking how far the position’s fallen and that there are no true superstars at the position right now

  • top_gun

    Austin, you do know that the Celtics were one of the worst teams before KG and Allen joined. Don’t get me wrong, I was a PP fan, but the dude flops far too much, especially at his position. Although he can score and defend, he still doesn’t measure up to Bird in both categories.

    You’re other comparison of Wade and Drexler was too funny. Wade is already far better than Clyde in so many ways.

    Dwight Howard is David Robinson without the offensive game. Olajuwon would have destroyed Dwight, I have no doubt in my mind about that. The time will come when Dwight won’t have his leaping ability and that’s when all the holes in his game will be glaring.

    Charles Barkley calls Tim Duncan the greatest power foward ever. Someone who plays his position at the present time. If nostalgia was the case, he would’ve name power forwards from his own era.

  • ctk

    @TopGun …im just speakin on the eras i seen 90 to now …im assumin we both agree Shaq,Hakeem,n DRob 3 best centers …..where do u rank Dwight n the Ewing,Zo,Mutumbo,BWallace,Yao,Smits,n Daugherty group

  • K Dizzle

    @ Austin – good read

    This discussion is like bein where I am in life with friends in their late 20s, early 30s arguin with our uncles n dads(Wilt, Oscar, Russell, Kareem, Elgin, West, Dr J) tryin to defend ours(Magic, Mike, Bird, Isiah to Kobe, Duncan, Shaq) while the little cousins are showin youtubes of last night’s hilights(Lebron, Durant, Rose, Wade, Dwight)

    The old guys get the respect cuz they did it first in a superloaded talent pool.
    We get the props cuz our guys took it to the next level.
    then we tell the kids to shut up cuz “they haven’t done nuthin yet” LOL

  • VC sux A$$

    @top_gun: couldn’t have agreed more about DHoward’s weaknesses being exposed after he loses his athleticism. But he’s more Moses Malone than David Robinson…DRob had that nice 12-15 foot jumper…Moses was just a brute offensive rebounder who got most of his points in a “garbage” way…

  • Stephen Jackson

    I guess it’s only because Pierce is Black so he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, right? Now, tell me, what if Bird was Asian?

  • Guitar Hero

    Nostalgia, my ass.

    Larry Bird is simply a better shooter,a MUCH better passer,better leader,better rebounder and had a much bigger bball IQ than Pierce. F*** stats, f*** nostalgia.

    That’s not a knock on Pierce. He’s a very, very, very good basketball player. But he’s no Larry. I mean…come on. You’re talking about (IMO) the most talented, tough and clever basketball player ever.

  • yoda

    i agree with some stuff you said. and yes, players now are more powerful than those from 80′s because of all stuff you mentioned. i’d like to point out one thing from this article. actually quote about larry having weakness and pierce is almost flawless. difference now and then is way you could defend someone. i’d like to see if PP would have it so much room to operate with all those hand checking and hacking and all that hustle thing. and lets face it, PP is flopper and drama queeen (wheelchair anyone? ) i know PP got stabbed but larry played with serious heart condition that was discovered around 1987-1988 and he told medical stuff to be mum about it so he could still play. that’s not counting his messed back.
    this count for all old school players. george mikan played with cast on his hand (and so many more players), west did almost same thing, players were taped so they could just step on the court. now players skip games for bruises. it’s sad that one of toughest players now is skinny steve nash! players now have more muscle but they can’t compare with old school players in heart/balls department.

  • Celts Fan

    @ctk – good question. I’d say it goes:

    Shaq/hakeem
    Ewing
    Drob
    Dwight/Smits/Yao (based on talent, didn’t do it long enough to belong on this list though)
    Bwallace/Zo/deke

  • Joe’ Momma

    Bird is better and to say the PP is close, is a damn lie

    Bird is going down as a top 10 player of all time AT LEAST!!!

    PP isn’t sniffing anything close to that, don’t give a crap how many points he scores.

  • Celts Fan

    @yoda. Get over the wheelchair thing. It was in the biggest game of his life. If u think a guy’s faking that shit in the Finals you’re too dumb for words. Over-reaction to a minor injury that hurt much more than it shoulda? Sure, but it’s insanity to suggest he’s faking any more than Wade was when he got carted out for a shoulder injury. I will NEVER accuse an athlete of faking an injury, even Wince Carter.

  • the_don_mega

    @yoda

    “…now players skip games for bruises. it’s sad that one of toughest players now is skinny steve nash! players now have more muscle but they can’t compare with old school players in heart/balls department.”

    you really can’t blame the guys for sitting out due to “bruises”. for us it’s just a game, but for these cats it’s their livelihood. medical advancements in today’s era can help prevent minor injuries to becoming major ones. so sitting a game out coz of some “bruise” shouldn’t be a gauge of bein’ a tough guy or having the biggest balls on he court. just like Kobe, i respect the dude for his courage in playin’ through his injuries, but then again to what extent must he put up with it? again that’s just my opinion.

  • http://datpiff.com beiber newz

    Some people were mocking pierce this season saying he needs to register for AARP. Wonder what they think now……

  • ctk

    @celt fan …u got Ewing ahead of DRob ..Rob more offensive skills …better all around defender ..better rebounder

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    Spencer Haywood 6’8 220lb rookie.

    One year of college

    Comes to the ABA and wins Rookie of the year AND MVP in the same year.

    ———————————-

    Kevin Johnson
    6’1 180lbs
    Made a Habit of dunking OVER legendary defensive big men. Hakeem, Larry Nance, and Mark Eaton.

    Robert Pack
    6’2 180lbs
    The man could fly. Check youtube. Dunked on Shawn Kemp and Cliff Robinson.

    Anthony “Spud” Webb
    5’6 133lb
    NBA dunk contest champ.

    —————————————-

    David Robinson
    7ft 1inch 250lb
    freak athlete.
    ——————————-
    Daryle Dawkins
    6’11 250lbs
    Freak athlete
    ——————————
    Shaquille O’Neal
    7ft 1in 300lbs
    Freak Athlete
    Dwight howard is cool and all, but I don’t think he ever jumped over someones head DURING a basketball game. Well SHAQ HAS
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoEWO5ypOPM

    ——————————
    Shawn Kemp
    6’10 240lb
    Freak Athlete
    ——————————

    Rudy Gay can’t dribble like a guard, GTFOH with that. He also has NO basketball IQ whatsoever and he’s been labeled as lazy since his freshman year at UConn.

    ————————————–
    Moses Malone
    1978-79 NBA MVP
    23yrs old.
    Putting up 25ppg 17rpg

    Bob McAdoo
    1974-75 NBA MvP
    23yrs old
    34ppg 14rpg
    also was 6’9 and considered one of the best mid-range shooters of his era
    —————————————-

    your mention of the Foreign born players is even more laughable considering that Patrick Ewing, Hakeem, Manute Bol, Detlef Shremf, Drazen Petrovich, and a few more guys were all Foreign born players who came to the NBA and got money during that time span.

    ——————————————-
    6’10 players that shoot 40% from 3.

    You do know that Larry Bird…considered one of the best shooters of all time, is 6ft f^cking 9inch right?!?!?

    Magic Johnson was a 6’9 PG….read that again. 6’9 PG. And is considered the best ever.

    Ralph Sampson was a 7’4 freak athlete Power Forward….there isn’t anyone even near or close to that in todays world.

    Kareem 7’2 230lbs Regularly had his head at the rim on blocks, dunks, rebounds during his days in Milwaukee.

    Roy Hibbert, Yao ming, Keith Closs, and whatever guys you can come up with who are 7’2 or more aren’t nearly as athletic as Ralph or Kareem.
    —————————————–

    Bottom line: you can pull wool over the eyes of these other cats. But not me. I know entirely too much about the history of the game and the current state of the game. You can play that Nostalgia BS all you want. Face the facts, many of these cats today just aren’t cut from the same cloth. They are in it for the money and i believe that has played a major part in them not putting in the work. But as i’ve said many times on this site before, The new crop of stars (Durant, Rose, KLove, Griffin) get it. I believe they will take the game back to where it’s supposed to be.

  • thedu

    @Celts Fan

    “I will NEVER accuse an athlete of faking an injury”

    Luckily Paul Pierce doesn’t fall into that category..

  • Nyeme

    @top_gun – Barkley says Tim Duncan is the greatest PF of all-time, but Kevein McHale is the best he ever played against.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    Isiah Thomas
    6’1 180lbs
    23yrs old 1984-85
    21ppg 14apg 2.3spg 4.5rpg

    Oh and he had plenty of hops
    winning jump ball vs 7fter
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUwcdmx9cy4&feature=related

    Dunking on 7fter
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhMbebeA2qg

    More dunks from Isiah
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChA45LsZm7I

    while he didn’t do it often, Zeke had major hops for a little guy.

    Derrick Rose is my mans and all, but he ain’t f^cking with Zeke just yet. Chris Paul is the closest to him and he is already declining.

  • King

    Facts:

    1. Kobe and Lebron are better than Larry Bird
    2. Im from Boston and a larry legend fan.

    3. Bob Ryan was and still is right regarding pierce. Hes the most unstoppable celtic offesive player ever.

    4. The only celtics that rank above him are Russ and Bird. But you would put him in the starting all tiem Cs line up

    rondo / cousy
    pierce
    bird
    cowens / mchale / KG (maybe not long enough tho)
    Russ

  • Mtx

    How do I compare Larry with Jordan, Magic, Lebron, Kobe?

    I take into account that Larry didn’t have half the athleticism of those guys, but still could dominate, putting 24/10/6 in ridiculous percentages. How did he do that? Simple, he was fucking smart and his skill level was as good, if not greater, than those guys named above.

    It is a lot easier to dominate when you’re just a freak of nature. Could you imagine, for example, Nash with Rose’s hops?

    Not sure about you guys, but I respect skills and smarts much more than just pure athleticism.

  • karmatic

    1978 thru 1982 allstars, 6 names stand out….magic, bird, kareem, moses, julius, isiah.

    2008 thru 2012 allstars, 7 names stand out….kobe, duncan, cp3, dwayne, lebron, drose, kd

    i don’t see a big difference, BUT you don’t have to go back too far before 1978 to discover a MUCH lower, earthbound, skills-deficient, really painful to watch brand of basketball (like, what the nba channel showed during the lockout).

    so the quality of bball improved a lot around 1980, and a lot more kids have been playing it since. BIG changes in the last 30 years? on average, the players jump a little higher, and shoot a little better, move a little faster, and i hope they last longer

  • sh!tfaced

    shit, any player who scored 25+ pts/game will always be considered better than bird. too bad the game isn’t just all about stats, how many game-winning shots or how they can go one-on-one vs anyone…

    bird – can’t run, can’t jump, had future hof’s as teammates and his teams were contenders year after year.
    yet his career stats are up there with the best. and he dominated the game playing within the team and in the flow of the game.

    try daring the kobes and the lebrons to put up numbers like those w/o dominating the ball & throwing up 20+ shots a game – share the ball with future hof teammates while contending for a championship without much use of their athletic/physical edge over others.

    bird is better and it aint even close. he wasn’t a jacker nor did he dominate the ball but was a total game changer and few impacted the game the way he did.

  • Mt. Pleasant

    I think if you compare different eras you either have to bump up the older era a little for better diet, trainers, medicine etc. Or you have to compare the two players to their own era and then compare how they played against the competition of their era. As long as the depth of the 2 eras is close, you have a decent comparison.

    For example Jordan was the without argument the greatest player of his generation by far and he dominated. For arguments sake say Kobe is the greatest of this generation. Well there was not the obvious gap between Kobe and the next best player of this generation so I think MJ is clearly the better player.

    In this case Bird was the top 3-5 players of his generation, would anyone say Pierce is the top 3-5 players of this generation. I don’t think so and so I don’t think you can say he’s better than Bird.

    Hey AB Bob Ryan also said:

    “I have no respect for the Hawks I can’t wait for Atlanta to make the playoffs and be humiliated like the dogs that they’ve been for the last few years. They are just ridiculous and Joe Johnson is the whole symbol of it all. I got no respect for them.”

  • yoda

    @ the_don_mega

    i agree with you, but that was my point. players used to do everything to win and they played for love of the game, for pride for what ever you want to call it. money wasn’t that big back then. hell, i remember reading about players from 50′s and 60′s (some who played for championship level teams and who were all stars) that after season ended they had to work on farms/offices etc. making more money than what they made as nba players.
    now it’s all about money/big contract/being on tv shows… i just don’t see same passion and heart (some players excluded) as i’m used to see back before. it seems that players aren’t players anymore, they are just brands.

  • 4M

    Austin, you’re on some heavy trip these past few weeks. Did you write this piece just to revisit the Dream Team debate from yesteryear? Enlighten me again on how Lebron has overtaken Larry Bird? In what area exactly? Cause after physical attributes, I can’t think of anything. Unless you include amount of tattoos, douchebaggery and hair loss. And now you’re on this paul pierce trip. Pierce is one of the greatest celtics ever if your list runs up to 20. Heck, might as well include Antoine Walker and Kenny Anderson in your list.

  • jackass

    okay y’all cats have shut Austin up big time, i think he understands the difference now. If you are talking about someone like Dr. J i can see where you coming from, but Bird?? fuck no dawg. there will never be another Larry Bird.

  • First & Foremost

    I skipped all of the other comments (and page 3) but I just had a similar argument. As time goes by, people forget about the other contributors that helped win championships. It was all Pierce or all KG or all Allen or Rondo was the captain of that team that won the finals in 2008, depending on who is placed on that demi-god pedestal. 5+ years later and everyone forgets about that old dude that came off the bench and gave good minutes (completely drawing a blank on dude’s name) or how House and Posey made made huge shots and hustle plays, or how Leon Powe had 24 off the bench. No, it will be remembered as Paul > Kobe and Paul KG punked Pau, as if to say no one else is relevant.

    Making an argument against Jordan is like trying to convince some kid that his dog did not run away to go live on a farm. Jordan hits a game winner and that was the most amazing play you ever saw. Re-living that moment became a bedtime ritual. You woke up and practiced hitting that shot for years. The media hyped it so you weren’t alone in feeling that was the most amazing thing ever. However, when that same sequence happens again, it just isn’t as amazing because it wasn’t done by Jordan. You’ve seen it before, it was burned into your mind as the greatest play ever. Without video proof you try to distort your favorite play just to make it incomparable. “Nah uhh, Jordan’s shot was way better. He had 4 defenders all over him (SpaceJam), no time left (shot shouldn’t count), double pumped, hung in the air forever (where does this extra time come from?), shot it off of his back foot (now he travels too?), nothing but net. Game over. Now that was amazing.”

    Great article and way to use the comments section as pawns.

  • Nyeme

    I think the real debate here is do you rank athleticism higher than skills. No one cane dispute that today’s players are more athletic, however how does that translate into what goes on the floor?

    Shooting percentages today are lower, individual rebounding is lower, the mid range is non-existent, steals are down, blocks are a joke since no one wants to get posterized, but dunks are in abundance.

  • http://www.livingcheapla.com hakasan

    @34,
    i call bs
    money always matters…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Dagger

    Bird’s stats are much, much better than Pierce’s. You rounded Bird’s numbers down, but Bird’s peak numbers are closer to 29/11/7. Compared to 26/7/3 for Pierce. That’s a huge difference, but it becomes much bigger when you think that Bird’s FG% was a full 8% higher than that of Pierce! That’s just a hair smaller than the difference between Durant and Joe Johnson this year.

    It’s also a false argument to compare those numbers, compiled over the course of a season, to single-game numbers. Put it this way: if one player in one game got 19/8/3, and another player got 28/5/6, you’d probably say there’s not that much of a difference between their performances that night. That first player is Tony Parker this year, while the second is Kobe Bryant. Parker is great and all, but clearly he’s not on Kobe’s level. The reason single game stats can’t be compared to a season’s stats is that over the course of a season the per game swings even out, and things like 1 or 2 extra rebounds start to say much more. One extra rebound becomes not just 1 extra rebound – as it would in a single game – but many dozens of rebounds compiled over 82 games. So yeah, the statistical chasm between Pierce and Bird is VAST. 3 points PER GAME. 4 rebounds PER GAME. 4 assists PER GAME. And a FG% that’s 8% higher!

    Oh, and by the way: Bird was probably also the most clutch player of all time, he was a 3-time MVP, 2-time Finals MVP, and he’s got 3 rings. Pierce was increasingly considered a stat stuffer on a team that couldn’t even sniff the playoffs before KG and Ray Allen came to town. Just: come on. You can try to stir up controversy and hits all you want, but this stuff just makes you look stupid.

  • Celts Fan

    @Dagger – I agree w/ your overall points, but you forget Pierce’s teams usually made the Playoffs. We made it all the way to the ECF before falling to NJ back in ’03 (I think, may’ve been ’02.) They made the Playoffs a lot and won a few series. You’re only thinking of the team after they dumped Antoine (yes, Paul Pierce once made it to the ECF with ANTOINE WALKER AS HIS #2) so let’s not act like he’s been a good #s, bad team guy his whole career, cuz he hasn’t, they made the Playoffs a lot from 2000-2005 and won a series a few times in there, but yes, he had become that “I’m getting mine” kinda cat for a while before being traded to Portland for the #3 pick (woulda been used on CP3) before he refused the trade and fixed his attitude.

  • Big Island

    I started to read the article, but I will have to come back to it after I finish working today. Chicagorilla seems to be handling the counter points just fine. You can look at numbers all you want, but in no way, shape, or form is Paul Pierce in Larry Bird’s world. Ray Allen has more points than Pierce, so he’s better. Dale Ellis, Reggie Theus, Calvin Murphy, TMac, Glen Rice, VC, Drexler, all of these guys have more points than Magic so they are better than him. Come on.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    It’s not about Pierce being better than Bird. I pretty clearly said that early on. And it’s not even about Bird being better than Pierce, or Isiah being better than D-Rose, or Hakeem being better than Dwight.

    It’s about the gap we put between them.

    No problem from me if you rank the all-time great Celtics as: 1-Russell, 2-Bird, 3-Havlicek, 4-Cousy, 5-Pierce. It’s when the rankings are presented like this: 1-Russell, 2-Bird, 3-Havlicek, 4-Cousy ……….. 5-Pierce.

    See the difference?

  • Kingboy D

    Good write-up, man. Well written, thoughtful. There’s a lot of truth in what you say. But at the same time, its hard to compare old to new because the league has changed so much. Rules have changed (e.g., hand checking), play style has changed (e.g., physicality), etc. The big man used to have a major influence on the offense (Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson, Daugherty, Smits, etc.). Now he’s just there for defense, screens, and rebounding in most cases. So its all apples and oranges. Just different games from then to now.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @Celtsfan

    whoa whoa whoa! Walker was #2 to Paul Pierce?
    First off, Walker was there 2-3 yrs before Paul. And was putting up 20ppg 10rpg 3apg BEFORE Paul Pierce even step foot in Boston.

    Secondly, The first year they made the playoffs together was 2002 when they lost the ECF’s to the NEts. Walker was already an all-star (made it in 98′) and was putting up 22ppg 9rpg 5apg and was taking more FG attempts than Paul Pierce (although PP went to the FT line more).

    Walkers last season in Boston was 03′ where he still put up 20ppg 7rpg 5apg while taking just as many shots as PP.

    Point is, I highly doubt anyone considered Walker number two. Walker handled the ball a lot more than Pierce back then. Was Pierce the better scorer? Yes. But Walker was the better rebounder and better passer. Walkers issue was he sorta played the same position as Pierce and the organization chose Pierce over him. Which is why he was traded the next year.

    I’m not picking a fight BTW, im just proving the point that Pierce was a BAD TEAM Good NUMBERS guy when he was alone.

    As soon as Walker left the next season (03/04)Pierce’s numbers dropped down to 23ppg 5rpg 6apg 40%FG for a 37 win team.
    04/05 Walker comes back along with Gary Payton and Ricky Davis. and the team is winning. Pauls around 21ppg again.

    05/06 The celtics win 37 games and Pierce goes off for 27ppg

    06/07
    team wins 31 games, Pierce plays 47 games and puts up 25ppg

    07/08
    Enter KG and Ray and Pierce only gets 19ppg but the team wins 67games.

  • Celts Fan

    @Chi – I hear ya, but as someone that’s been here watching it and digesting all the info out there, Pierce was the best player on those teams come ’02. That much was clear to everyone here by Pierce’s second year when his potential and ceiling were pretty apparent to us, cuz Toine WAS a good #s, bad team guy (low shooting %s, TOs, bad shots) For the record, Jamaal Magloire made an all star team in the same years Toine made his, so the East wasn’t exactly loaded with talent. Understand I’ve had season tix since Walker’s rookie year, but it was clear he was a flawed “star” for a while. Pierce’s assencion and development only cemented that home. One night in his 2nd year, he put up 20+ in a half and it was clear to all whose team it was (or would very soon be.) Call it 1a/1b if you want, either way, Toine’s been exposed as being over-rated, good #s/bad team/GREAT celebration guy as Pierce is a lock for the Hall and this was his 3rd or 4th year we’re talking about here after 3 at KU, so we’re not talking some newbie who hadn’t developed yet. It was still Pierce, Toine, and really no one else beyond Kenny Anderson’s rapidly decaying corpse on those squads.

    oh, and I LOVE GP, LOVE him, but dude was pretty useless and washed up by the time he got here. Don’t fall for the name. Ricky was aight, but we know who that cat is, and it’s not a winning player.

  • Celts Fan

    @Chi – EVERYONE, regardless of who you are, is a good #s, bad team guy when they’re alone. Kobe BARELY made the Playoffs in his “shoulda been MVP if we ignore that Steve Nash made Boris Diaw a 18-9 guy on a 60 win team that lost Amare cuz Kobe’s putting up points on an 8 seed” KG missed the Playoffs a few times with Ricky Davis/Wally World as his #2s. MJ barely got there before Scottie, Dwight’s team is meh, LeBron never got over the hump, etc. Every guy I just mentioned is better than Pierce too. You can’t name a single superstar that’s ever won a title with a horrid team around him; doesn’t work that way…

  • Celts Fan

    and DON’T mention Dirk last year after trying to call Toine legit when Dallas had the highest scoring bench in the league last year, one of the 3 best defensive centers in the game, Matrix (still effective albeit no longer an all star) and a still average-to-above-average legend in JKidd.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Too many people downplay the impact of a great franchise front office on a player’s career, while at the same time blaming the player when his team isn’t great.

    Bird wouldn’t be champion BIRD without Red Auerbach; Jordan wouldn’t be champion JORDAN without Jerry Krause; Kobe wouldn’t be champion KOBE without West/Kupchak; Duncan wouldn’t be champion DUNCAN without San Antonio’s execs. NBA players might be able to single-handedly determine the outcome of a game more than players in any other team sport, but they can’t do the personnel work too.

    Also consider that Pierce averages 16 FGA and 7 FTA for his career, while Bird averaged 19 FGA and 5 FTA. So if you’re gonna say Pierce was just jacking on a bad team, you’ve gotta say Bird was jacking too.

  • Celts Fan

    @AB – great point on front offices.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @AB

    Yes great point on the front offices of the Lakers and Celtics. Considering that both franchises have raped the entire NBA since it started.

    Chicago and San Antonio on the other hand haven’t. Chicago sucked balls before MJ and as soon as MJ left they sucked again.
    Did they bring in Scottie and Phil sure. Hand claps for that. You can even give them props for Ho Grant (although he wasn’t shyt after Chicago)
    They aslo jagged every other pick.
    -Brad Sellers instead of Mark Price/Kevin Duckworth (from IL)/Dennis Rodman/Jeff Hornecek(from IL)?
    - Will Purdue instead of Rod Strickland/Grant Long/Harvey Grant(Horace’s Brother)?
    - Stacey King instead of Mookie Blaylock/Tim Hardaway (from IL)/Shawn Kemp/Vlade Divac?
    - Jason Caffey instead of Mike Finley (from IL)
    - corey Benjamin instead of Nazhr Muhammad (from IL), Ruben Patterson, Cat Mobley
    - Elton Brand over Baron davis, Odom, Steve Francis which became a real problem when they decided to trade him for Tyson Chandler…then later trade Chandler!
    – Jay Williams instead of Amare Stoudimire
    - Marcus Fizer instead of Quentin richardson (from IL),
    - Drafting Khalid El Amin, Jake Voskul, AJ Guyton while Michael Redd was still on the board!!!
    -picking Jamal Crawford then letting him go for nothing

    Drafting guys like Byron houston, Dickey Simpkins, Travis Knight, Keith Booth, Rusty Lurue

    hiring Tim f^cking Floyd

    I can keep going but I have to go so i can’t go any further or get into the Spurs. Point is, both organizations got VERY LUCKY picking up a great player (Jordan/Robinson/Duncan) and pairing them with awesome coaches (Phil/Tex/Pop)

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Chicagorilla — Call it luck or call it skill; point is that Paul Pierce or LeBron or Dwight Howard or whoever can’t hire their own coach and draft/trade/sign their own teammates. Some things are out of their hands.

    You have to give the Bulls front office credit for bringing in Rodman, Kerr, Paxson, Cartwright, Levingston and whoever else you believe contributed positively to Jordan/Pippen’s 6 championships. You can’t give anybody else credit for building the team. Unless your argument is that those players stunk and Jordan/Pippen personally molded them into good players.

  • Celts Fan

    @Chi – it’s wicked easy to go back and blame people after you’ve seen these guys play. Brand was the clear-cut, #1 prospect in that draft (and to put Steve Francis on that list is beyond laughable. Tht clown SUCKED unless you want a poor man’s DRose tht didn’t make guys better and turned the ball over constantly,) Williams was the clear-cut #2 prospect in his draft while Amare had major character concerns at the time (5 HS’s in 4 yrs,) and NO ONE knew Michael Redd would be anything like what he became, INCLUDING MILWAUKEE. You can’t say, “We definitely should have drafted the guy that went 11th with the 1st pick cuz he ended up being better and I know that now,” cuz at the time, the GM would have gotten KILLED in the media. Hindsite’s 20/20, but GM’s don’t have that luxury.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Celts Fan — Exactly. That’s why I hate it when media/fans kill a team for a “draft bust” when EVERYBODY was high on that particular player at the time of the draft.

    Case in point: Kwame Brown. I definitely remember some writers and analysts at big-time publications like ESPN and SI talking about Kwame being the next KG, a guy who could some day lead the league in rebounding, etc. Michael Jordan wasn’t the only person who thought taking Kwame #1 was a great idea.

    And the thing is, it wasn’t a terrible idea. Kwame would’ve been fine if the Wizards had stuck to their rebuilding plan and brought him along slowly, but Jordan decided he wanted to come back as a player and the focus became winning NOW, which thrust Kwame into a position where he had no more leeway to develop and was expected to be good immediately. I truly think it was too much for him to handle (especially with MJ’s personality) and that’s what made him a “bust.”

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @AB and Celts Fan

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Fool me 38X’s and im a f^cking idiot.
    The Bulls have made mistake after mistake after mistake in the front office.

    You can bad mouth Steve Francis all you want, but that’s just your personal opinion. Dude was an elite PG from the moment he came into the NBA. And i would rather have had 7-8yrs of Steve Francis rather than 2yrs of Elton Brand. By the way, Steve played in the playoffs a few times and played well. Brand has been there like 2 times in a 10+yr career.

    I’m not giving the Bulls props for bringing in Cliff f^cking Levingston, Bobby Hansen,BJ Armstrong, John Paxson,OLD Dennis Rodman or Bill CArtwright. Not when we could have had Tim Hardaway, Mark Price, Kevin Duckworth or the YOUNG Dennis Rodman. Other than Rodman none of those dudes were irreplaceable. Not one! And they all sucked after they left Jordan/Bulls. Not one had more than one good year after they left chicago. Even Steve Kerr sucked a$$ until he hit one big shot for the Spurs. Other than that he was garbage.

    I’ve listed on this site before how terrible Jordan’s teammates have been throughout his career and how he/Pippen/Triangle offense made them look much better than what they were. Same goes for Tim Duncan/Popavich with San Antonio. when guys leave them they don’t get better or play big roles elsewhere. They fade away.

    @AB
    Can Dwight and those guys pick their GMs no. But there are only a few GMs or organization in the NBA who are as lucky (meaning they steal players) as the Celtics and Lakers every decade. The Bulls were great during the 90′s because of MJ. Then 1998 came and they were irrelevant for 10 f^cking years! Then we “luck up” (meaning Stern cheated and gave us the #1 pick) and draft Derrick rose.

    Same goes for the Spurs. They sucked during the 80s. Got David robinson, were OKAY at best during the early 90′s. Robinson sits out a year and they luck up and get Tim Duncan (whom the Celtics nearly got…what a coincidence) and later Greg Popavich. 2yrs later…NBA Title. And when Duncan retires, so will the talks of the so called “great” front office of the Spurs. Who will go back to sucking.

  • Big Island

    I’m not saying Pierce is garbage, or GM’s don’t play a role, or anything like that. I’m not getting into whether or not Paul Pierce is a jacker, or overrated, or underrated and a killer. I hate the guy, but Pierce is one of the best Celtics of all time. You can’t call it any other way. Bird is one of the best players in the history of the NBA. I hate the guy, but you can’t call it any other way.

    Do not, under any circumstances, ANY, use Rudy Gay as an example of a basketball player. He is the single most overrated player in the history of basketball.

  • Nyeme

    @Chigorilla – That’s what I be trying to tell people. Pierce was the better scorer, especially after Toine cease being Cyber-Toine and fell in love with the 3 but Toine handled the ball, ran the offense, and was the leader of the team. Remember it took them getting Toine back to make that playoff push.

  • Celts Fan

    @Big Island – nope, most over-rated player ever was Steve Francis. I wish they’d had PER back then just to see if it’s possible to have a negative one.

    @Nyeme – that’s circumstantial on Toine. We’d had Raef Lafrentz, JR Bremer, Walter McCarty, and Tony Battie prominently involved. Even MJ or Kobe couldn’t do much beyond maybe cop an 8 seed with that level of “talent” around them. Toine was good, but it was Pierce’s team at that point. Trust me, I was there for most of those games and been a season ticket holder since Toine’s rookie year. The team became Pierce’s by his 3rd year at the latest. Toine was a good #2 for a while, but not like he’s ever been elite or anything. Doesn’t matter, but trust me, that’s how it was. By his 2nd go-around, Toine was more of a fan-favorite than a legit go-to-guy or worth-while #2 for a good squad. He consistently averaged over 3 turnovers per, under 70% from the stripe, low-to-mid 30s from 3, and low 40s from the field. I loved the Wiggle and like dude and think his financial issues are heart=breaking (note to youngsters, DO NOT HANG W/ JORDAN. YOU DON’T HAVE THE $$$ TO KEEP UP,) but dude wasn’t that good in context here. No team’s gonna average 50ppg, so someone’s gotta get those #s…

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @Celtsfan

    Im not saying it was Toine’s team, but im not saying it was soley Pierce’s team either.

    it was more of a 1a/1b thing during their time together. Kinda like Wade and Lebron right now.

    Also, please don’t put MJ and Kobe in the same sentence when speaking about making teammates better. As you can see above, I’ve listed the scrubs that MJ won championships with. While Kobe spent much of his time running off or silencing talent.

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @AB

    I know you’re going to look at that last post and say

    “See that’s what im talking about. You make it seem like Kobe shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as MJ”

    And yes you would be right. As i’ve stated time and time ago i have no respect for Kobe’s numbers or his first 3 rings. If there was ever a circumstantial player in the NBA (like you suggested with MJ, Duncan, Bird, PP) it’s Kobe. If Kobe wasn’t given the hype of being a Laker he would have been labeled as the selfish chucker that he is. Everything he’s done on the court is no different that what Allen Iverson or Dominique Wilkins did.
    Not only do i not think Kobe is even within 100yards of MJ, i wouldn’t even put him in the top 15 players of all time off the top of my head. And that has nothing to do with his talent, but everything to do with his selfishness. No way in hell would I want that dude on my team. I think he is way more talented than say….Ray Allen. but give me Ray anyday over him.