Over that span, Pierce scored more points than nearly all of the other Celtics greats from the past. He tallied more points than Larry Bird, more than Robert Parish, more than Bob Cousy, more than Bill Russell and more than Kevin McHale. The only player Pierce couldn't match was John Havlicek, who recently spoke with Boston Globe reporter Gary Washburn to discuss Pierce's departure from Boston.
Of the several interesting comments Havlicek made to Washburn, none were more interesting than the Celtics legend's high praise for Pierce, referring to him as "the best one-on-one player of all Celtics."
That is quite the compliment to get from one of the NBA's greatest players of all time, and although it's true he qualified the statement by limiting the group to former Boston players, it's undeniable that no team has more Hall of Fame players than the Celtics, and Larry Bird is, at least according to LeBron James, one of the three greatest players in history.
So is Pierce the greatest one-on-one player in Celtics history? It's a tough call. The game has completely changed from what it was in the 1960s and 1970s when the Celtics were at their very best. Players are more athletic today and superstars are expected to be able to take defenders off the dribble. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was a lot harder to drive to the basket. There was no 3-point line, so defenders could hang back in the paint, and offenses were all about playing as a single cohesive unit. Referees also allowed defenders to be far more aggressive than today, when a player earns a technical foul for jabbering after a play. Even in the 1980s, the era of Bird, Dennis Johnson, McHale and Parish, the Celtics continued to emphasize team offense over individual stardom.
Pierce is undeniably a Boston sports legend and will go down as one of the greatest Celtics ever, but in my estimation, I would rather have Bird in a one-on-one situation at the end of the game than Pierce, although I am not sure anyone else comes ahead of Pierce.
Regardless of whether or not Havlicek is right or wrong, his comments should make for some interesting conversation in the coming weeks leading up to the NBA preseason.
Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.
Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Celtics
- Paul Pierce
- Larry Bird
- Boston Globe