by Olivia Koravos
On February 11th, 2018, I had the honor of going to the Paul Pierce Retirement Ceremony. I was lucky enough to score what Celtics general manager Danny Ainge referred to as “one of the hottest tickets in Celtics history.” The excitement for this game had been years in the making, long before fans knew an exact date as to when this would take place. Back in June of 2013, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry were sent to the Brooklyn Nets for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, and Keith Bogans. In addition to this, the Brooklyn Nets gave the Celtics three first-round picks. Celtics fans were absolutely devastated to lose their two stars, especially their captain.
Pierce agreed to go to Brooklyn in order to give the Celtics a better future. The former Celtics captain realized his value was diminishing as he aged, and did not want to leave the Celtics with little to fall back on when the time to rebuild began. Although many fans saw it as a betrayal from the Celtics front office, it was also to be remembered that keeping former Celtics legend Larry Bird until he retired contributed to the 22-year drought of not winning a championship. Ironically enough, Pierce’s #34 would be the 22nd number to be retired to the rafters.
Traded or not, fans knew that someday, Paul Pierce’s #34 would take its rightful place in the TD Garden rafters no matter what. Although Pierce went on to play for the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and finally the Los Angeles Clippers, he was always a Celtic at heart and green blood never ceased to course through his veins.
This is why it has been, and always will be a no-brainer when it comes to the fact that no Celtics player should ever be able to wear #34 again. Paul Pierce’s contributions on and off the court have affected the city of Boston and well beyond for almost twenty years now. The man himself has stated several times that he wants to work in the Celtics front office someday and Boston is ready to welcome him back with open arms when the time comes.
For these reasons and many more, Paul Pierce was honored with a beautiful ceremony after the Celtics/Cavaliers game two weeks ago. With Pierce being allowed to choose the date, the former captain picked his ceremony day for when Celtics to played against LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was only right, having battled LeBron on the parquet floor for several years, creating amazing moments for fans to remember forever. Unfortunately, the Celtics quite literally dropped the ball and allowed the revamped Cavaliers to get away with a 121-99 win.
Fortunately, it was particularly easy for Celtics fans to stomach the beat down, for throughout the game clips of Paul Pierce’s time in Boston were shown on the jumbotron. Whether it was a lighthearted montage of Pierce’s 2007 Gucci-inspired fashion sense, or interviews from his former coaches, friends, and family- Celtics fans were in for a treat the entire game. Every missed basket was all but forgotten during these timeouts, for all a cameraman would have to do is point his lens at Kevin Garnett, Doc Rivers, and Rajon Rondo sitting in the front row for all to see and boom- magic! The place would erupt with roars during these moments, Celtics supporters whooping and cheering in all their glory.
The afternoon was a dream come true for Paul Pierce fans for many reasons, one being for all the swag being sold at the TD Garden. For myself, I purchased a limited edition Paul Pierce hat, #34 jacket patch, Paul Pierce magazine, Retirement Ceremony t-shirt, and even a fun, beaded necklace with his number on it. Once the disappointing game had ended, fans were reminded of why they were truly there, and why they had spent so much money for a basketball game in the first place. Donned in Paul Pierce gear I watched alongside more than 18,000 other fans in the building, in awe at what was to come.
A few Celtics legends and a handful of Paul Pierce’s former teammates all took their seats in black chairs on the parquet floor. Although we were all excited to see these impactful men, it was Paul Pierce who the audience was itching to cheer for. One last time, Celtics public address announcer Eddie Palladino called out Paul Pierce’s introductory words. For many of us, this was a nostalgic moment because we had heard it so many times before the start of games. There was a familiarity present that very much hit home and we knew being able to hear this one last time was something special indeed.
Walking out of the new “Paul Pierce Players Tunnel,” the Celtics former captain received an emotional welcome back onto the court. The celebration officially began with a wonderfully done 5-minute video, written by Sean Grande and narrated by Tommy Heinsohn. Although no film could truly do justice the time Pierce spent as a Celtic, this video did an incredible job at condensing some of his best moments on and off the court and creating a video for all to enjoy and reminisce.
After emotional, heartfelt speeches from Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge, CEO Wyc Grousbeck, and former head coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce finally had control of the microphone for the first time that day. Fans listened to Pierce’s thankful words intently for around twenty minutes, stopping to clap several times. One fan even yelled: “Paul Pierce for President!” so loud that Pierce himself heard, laughed, and the entire Garden erupted. There were few dry eyes in the building by the end of Pierce’s emotional speech, and what was to come next will forever be embedded in my mind.
I was fortunate enough to have a perfect view of the Celtics banner going up. Alongside his wife Julie and three children, Pierce helped raise the banner with the retired numbers of past Celtics legends. Andra Day’s “I’ll Rise Up” played while Pierce and family worked to put the banner in its rightful spot once again, left to be untouched until that last square left is filled. Many speculate that Kevin Garnett’s #5 will be sewn into the material next year, the number to be placed next to his best friend’s.
But as for right now, #34 will bask in all its fresh, green glory. Pierce’s generation of Celtics fans will forever be able to look up to the rafters and remember all of the amazing moments they were able to feel and experience thanks to this extraordinary player and person. Legends are not born, but they are made. Paul Pierce’s time on the historic Boston Celtics exemplifies just that, and in case one forgets this- all they have to do is look up and see the concrete proof in the form of not one banner, but two.