Earlier this week, NBA legend and future Hall Of Famer Paul Pierce announced that he would retire at the end of this season. The one they referred to as “The Truth” announced that he will play his 19th and final season with the LA Clippers in a post in the Players Tribune titled “My Final Season”.
A career filled with accolades, All-Star appearances and even a championship, it’s hard to say that anyone is surprised by his decision. Many people thought he would retire after his 2014 season with the Wizards, especially after the heartbreaking way in which they lost in the 2nd round to the Hawks. However, Pierce eventually decided to finish his career in his home state of California and be as close to his family as much as he could. No one can blame him.
“I called game!”
Those three words are probably the first that come to mind when you ask any Wizards fan about when they hear the name Paul Pierce. In Game 3 of Washington’s eventual second round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks in 2014, Pierce hits one of the most iconic game winners in franchise history as he steps back and banks a 20 plus foot fadeaway over Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore. Following the madness, confetti streams and the shock of 20,000 people in the arena, ESPN’s Chris Broussard joking asked Pierce, “Did you call bank?” and Pierce’s iconic reply was, “I called game!”
Pierce may have only been here in Washington for one season but he left a tremendous impact on every Wizards fan and player. From seeing him hit game winners in the playoffs with their best player and franchise point guard nursing a broken hand, to seeing him at Washington Capitals playoff games getting the fans pumped up, Paul Pierce was everything this team wants to become moving forward. He represented toughness in the face of adversity, resilience during a time of disarray, and accountability after heartbreak.
Since that season, it’s been easy to see the impact that Pierce has made on the team. For starters, the Wizards didn’t make the postseason last year and while that may not have been as a result of Pierce’s absence, you could certainly argue that the team was desperate for Pierce’s veteran presence especially late in the year when it seemed like tensions were high and players were expressing frustrations at one another. Production and scoring aside, Pierce’s calming influence would’ve been a tremendous asset to the Wizards last season given the rash of injuries they dealt with all year. Given the fact that Washington still managed to finish with 41 wins, I don’t think its inconceivable to assume that Pierce could’ve pushed them in to the post season.
While Pierce left an impact on every person in that organization, I couldn’t help but notice that Wizards starting center and rim protector, Marcin Gortat seemed to reference him a lot last season. Various times in post-game pressers, Gortat would reference Pierce when referring to common team goals like leadership, toughness and accountability. After all, that is what Pierce has emphasized his entire career. Let me just state for the record that Gortat is a tremendous guy. I’ve spoken to him on and off the court many times and the guy could not be a nicer person. He’s the first person to say hello to you and is always willing to take time out of his day to grant an interview. Knowing all this, I felt very comfortable asking him to say a few words about what it was like playing with Paul Pierce and he didn’t disappoint.
On behalf of Wizards fans everywhere, I would like to thank you Paul Pierce for your time here and the memories you helped create. If you somehow read/see this article, just know that you’ve left a tremendous impact on the Polish Hammer as well.