Two nights ago Paul Pierce carried a Boston Celtics team on his back with a 36 point, 14 rebound output and a win over the Atlanta Hawks on the road. The win gives the Celtics the home court edge and a 1-1 series tie despite playing without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. If you watched it you know, if you didn't it has been described as Paul Pierce winning the game for Boston.
The performance and the win have set off a slew of articles and radio conversations evaluating Pierce's place in Celtic lore. He is now the no. 2 all time leading scorer for Boston, just ahead of Larry Bird and many are placing him in the top five all time for the organization. The Boston Globe even placed him in the conversation for 'greatest Celtic ever'. It's the latest chapter in a career that seems to keep getting better with age.
Again, Pierce responded with an effort for the playoff ages. Only this time, Pierce didn't have the benefit of the youth and boundless energy that fueled his tour-de-force performance seven years earlier. This time, the 34-year-old captain needed a heavy dose of heart and determination to make up for his advancing age and declining athleticism.
As a Jayhawk fan this is one of the few reasons I pay attention to the NBA. Kansas has put a good number of players into the league during my time as a fan, but none have commanded the attention and experienced the success of Pierce. I sometimes wonder what, if anything, that does for his legacy as a Jayhawk.
Pierce obviously had a great career during his time in Lawrence. His jersey hangs from the rafters, and as he inches toward his NBA retirement and matures as a person his affinity for Lawrence and the University of Kansas is becoming more apparent as his involvement has subtly increased.
Does it shed another light on Pierce's place in Jayhawk history? I think it does. Pierce has gone from a great player on a great team to perhaps a global basketball figure playing for one of the more storied organizations in the NBA. Pierce plays at the highest level of his sport, and has carved out a place for himself as one of the all time Celtic greats. That's an impressive accomplishment and a great story for a player that took a great deal of criticism during his youth. Pierce's gradual maturity or perhaps his reinvention of himself into what he has become makes this story even better.
No Paul Pierce isn't adding banners or wins to the Kansas record books, but in some way doesn't his success and the way he has gone about his business during his career have to reflect well on the Kansas program? And doesn't that in turn help strengthen his legacy as a Jayhawk? Pierce was a fun one to watch in the crimson and blue and it's great to see him continuing to add to his long-term success. He might not go out on top, but it's pretty obvious that he's never going to bow out without a fight.