On Sunday evening the Boston Celtics retired the jersey number of yet another one of its all-time greats, Paul Pierce. Pierce had his number 34 retired by the team following a contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Pierce spent the first 15 years of his professional career in Boston. According to USA Today’s Steve Gardner, “The Truth” knew how to put on a show for his fans, averaging 21.8 points and six rebounds over that stretch.
The crux of his achievements came in 2008 when his squad defeated Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. As a result, Boston earned their 17th championship, which remains the benchmark in the sport. The small forward was named the MVP of that series.
Although he was indeed the MVP then, he was certainly not the only reason Boston succeeded against Los Angeles. A ton of credit also goes to stars such as Kevin Garnett, who helped anchor the defense of that year’s Celtic team.
For this reason, among others, Pierce firmly believes that Garnett’s jersey No. 5 should be retired by the Celtics as well. The former vouched for KG during a recent interview with ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.
“Without a doubt, KG’s number will be [the next one] retired in Boston,” said Pierce. “It’s going to happen.”
The New York Daily News’ Brett Bodner appears to concur with Pierce’s line of thinking. Bodner notes that Garnett was largely responsible for an incredible shift in the Celtics’ overall “culture.”
It is worth mentioning that in 2006-2007 Boston finished dead last in their division. With a paltry record of 24-58, the green and white’s hopes of returning to their glory days seemed impossible.
However, in the 2007-2008 campaign, a mighty reversal transpired. The team finished the year with 66 wins, and the good old days made quite a rapid return. This reversal, of course, was due to Garnett every bit as much as Pierce.
Garnett was acquired in a megadeal during the summer of 2007. He invested the first dozen years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. During that span, Garnett was a part of 10 All-Star teams and managed to pick up the 2004 MVP.
Tim Daniels of Bleacher Report grasps that the fierce competitor did not put up the kind of numbers in Boston that he did in Minnesota. This is so on the grounds that Garnett did not always need to be the Celtics’ top option. In addition to Pierce, Boston also boasted the likes of sharpshooter Ray Allen. Nevertheless, the power forward still averaged 15.7 points, 8.3 boards, and 2.7 dimes a night as a Celtic.
In 2010, that same trio led Boston to the NBA Finals again, although the Lakers got their revenge that time around. In spite of the loss, making it yet again demonstrates how good that group really was.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge recalls those championship teams and knows that without KG, such success would not have been possible. Kirstie Chiappelli of Sporting News recently took note of Ainge’s thoughts on the debate. Suffice to say, Ainge seems to wholeheartedly concur with Pierce’s endorsement.
“It was six years of potential championship-caliber teams and All-Star play from KG,” Ainge said. “I think that it was a pretty significant impact he had in those six years.”
Despite Ainge’s comments, it is reasonable to make a case against Garnett. While there is no denying his “impact,” Garnett was not in Boston nearly as long as Pierce. JE Yaranon of ClutchPoints takes this crucial tidbit into account, thus wondering if Garnett should be immortalized.
Garnett’s case is similar to that of former Laker Pau Gasol. The latter spent about 6 and a half seasons with the purple and gold. Gasol played a major role in helping L.A. win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Thus, while the Spaniard’s impact is unquestionable, the length of his stay with Los Angeles causes his own jersey retirement debate to be up in the air.
It is curious, though, that Boston has not had another Celtic wear No. 5 since Garnett left the team in 2013. That being said, it is possible that the idea is not entirely ludicrous.
Brian Scalabrine, a reserve on the 2008 championship roster, likewise believes the idea is not outlandish, via Forsberg. Scalabrine goes on to convey that it would be appropriate since there is one empty space left on the banner Pierce’s number now resides on.
“They go together. Those two guys are linked. That’s how it is,” said Scalabrine.
“Even the fact that there’s one more spot on that banner, that spot is No. 5. He’s the guy. They hang out [together in Los Angeles], they also hang out right next to each other on the banner. There’s no argument out there that he does not belong on that banner. No one out there can make that argument.”
Pierce, Ainge, and Scalabrine are surely not the only three who believe KG’s No. 5 should go into the TD Garden’s rafters. The final choice, however, is not up to them. SLAM Online writer Marcel Mutoni reveals that nothing is official in terms of Garnett. Moreover, Chris Forsberg included that the final decision would be determined by the Celtics’ ownership.
If Pierce’s prediction comes to fruition, Garnett would be the 23rd Celtic to ever receive the distinction.
Regardless of whatever happens, Ainge is correct in saying that Garnett made quite an impact as a Celtic. The Boston Celtics’ storied history is all about winning. Surely enough, KG made sure that the longtime tradition did not come to a halt. Accordingly, the odds of No. 5 being retired are likely in The Big Ticket’s favor.