If you keep up with the sports world at all, you know that on Feb. 11, 2018, the Boston Celtics organization will be honoring former Celtic great and 2008 NBA champion Paul Pierce with a formal ceremony and retiring his jersey (No. 34) to hang it up in the rafters next to Celtics great(ER)s like Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Bob Cousy, among others.
I’m not here to argue about his facial features or here to turn atheists into believers: Paul Pierce deserves this honor. He brought the storied Celtics franchise (with the assistance of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo) their first championship in over 20 years and was a 10-time All-Star, among other highlights. His place among Celtic greats is debatable because the franchise has had so many top-notch talents, hence their league-leading 17 championships, but he is a great, nonetheless.
His place among the stars only matters for sports junkies, basketball nerds and Celtic fans with nothing better to do during the offseason. I’m a Paul Pierce fan. During one of those years when everybody was buying jerseys, I bought a Paul Pierce jersey and everything. And I hate the Celtics.
Which is why I’m so annoyed that he’s such a diva. You see, for that same night that Paul Pierce was having his jersey retired, the Celtics initially planned to honor their former All-Star, Isaiah Thomas, with a 90-second clip of his highlights during the early part of the game. The tribute was originally planned for an earlier day, but Thomas requested a later date so that his family could be there and he could also play in the game, a request that the organization granted. At first. It just so happened that the later date coincided with Pierce’s jersey-retirement ceremony. Pierce was none too pleased about this and made no bones about the fact that he wanted the date for himself.
Now, he’s not a petty diva for wanting the date all to himself. I’m entirely fine with that; it even makes sense. He’s a petty diva for making it well-known and actively (and it should be noted, successfully) having the Thomas tribute removed from that particular game night’s programming. See, Pierce went so far as to call Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics’ general manager and director of basketball operations, and let him know he was not feeling it.
“Danny and I talked about it for 40 minutes,” Pierce told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and Chris Forsberg. “He told me, ‘This is what we have planned,’ and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘If you don’t want us to do (the) Isaiah (tribute video), we won’t.’ So I told him, ‘I really don’t.’ So that was it. That’s how we left it.”
He was so hell-bent on having his own night that he went to the almost-top to really share how bothered he was by this. Paul Pierce, a man who was having his jersey retired and would have all the accolades showered upon him—without the use of Almighty RSO songs (too soon?)—was so bothered that he literally went to a bossman and was like, “Yo, I’m just not feeling this and would like you all to not make me share that night with another person, even if it’s just a 90-second clip.”
All of this over a 90-second clip. Literally 90 seconds. A sizable percentage of people have the best sex of their life in less time than that. But it’s the principle for Paul; it’s his night and the entire night should be his. It’s his party and he can cry if he wants to.
And I actually think he’s right ... to a degree, but not for conventional reasons. I actually think he’s right because the Celtics should have seen this coming. They should have known that Paul Pierce, a great player who seems to think he was maybe one of the 10 best players ever, would want as much of the fanfare and accolades as possible, and realized that it would be a big-enough deal to just tell Thomas he’d have to do the tribute on the first date they proposed.
Thomas was a gutsy, really good and important player for the Celtics during his three years there. And while I do tend to agree with Rondo’s “Do we honor conference championships now?” diatribe (though not his douchey delivery), I have no problem with them honoring Thomas. Garnett doesn’t seem to think he deserves it, either. I like Thomas, though, as did the city of Boston, and watching him will those teams as far as they got during his last year was awesome.
So while I think Pierce is petty for actively campaigning to get a man’s tribute shut down and being enough of a diva to do it publicly, the true culprit here is the Celtics organization, which should have thought about it beforehand and avoided the entire fracas in the first place. But if they had, we wouldn’t have clips of Jalen Rose calling Pierce petty to his face, and like the hokeypokey, I guess that’s what it’s really all about.