Man, being an NBA champion and finals hero sure does seem to agree with Paul Pierce.
Until this past June, Pierce had been a very good NBA player for a decade- a top 30 guy every year, but never a superstar. He was one of the better players of his era, but by no means a Hall-of-Famer. But then, a funny thing happened to Paul Pierce on his way to being a really good player- he made “the leap”.
This is by no means intended to insinuate that Pierce was not a good player prior to last June- far from it. At more than 23 points and 6 rebounds a night, not to mention numerous clutch performances over his decade-long career, Pierce had definitely shown that he had top-shelf talent. He was poised to be the best Celtic of the post-Larry Bird era. But somewhere between June and November 2008, Paul Pierce became “special”.
I also want to avoid suggesting that winning the NBA championship somehow facilitated Pierce “leap”. The ring completed his resume and may have stamped his ticket to the Hall, but it was the way that Pierce played in the Finals, and the new swagger he’s brought to the 2008-09 season that’s made the loudest statement. It’s not that he helped lead the Boston Celtics to title in June, it’s that he was the toughest and most clutch player on the floor in the series. Kevin Garnett was expected to be the C's best player, and may have been their emotional leader, but it was Pierce whose game reached new heights; he took the title from the Lakers. As for a carryover effect? Well, Pierce may have been clutch before, but he’s become a 4th quarter force of nature! Fourth quarter scoring? Check. Buzzer beaters? You bet! (Love the scream after the shot!) But more than anything else, it that extra sprinkle of arrogance in Paul Pierce’s games that has taken him from “very good” to “great”, and made him one of the league’s must-watch stars. Pierce now carries himself like a true superstar- and deservedly so!
Looking at how Paul Pierce has elevated his game, and redefined his legacy, an interesting observation can be made- that a player with Pierce’s ability has made “the leap” is not difficult to believe- but the fact that he spent 10 years being “good”, before breaking out as "great" is particularly interesting.