Paul Pierce is considered one of the all-time greats in Boston Celtics history. Drafted 10th overall by the Celtics in the 1998 NBA Draft, he did not disappoint. He has put his name alongside Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Kevin McHale, John Havlicek, KC Jones, Robert Parish, the list could go on and on. Pierce retired in 2017 and is a legend in Boston and an all-time NBA historic player.
But in April 2019, he made one of the boldest claims of his life. Pierce worked alongside Jalen Rose for ESPN as an NBA analyst for NBA Countdown. It was Dwayne Wade’s last season of his career. The regular season was ending and the Heat would not make the playoffs. Of course, the ESPN crew historically debated D-Wade’s place.
That’s when Pierce dropped the bombshell that was captured by CBS Sports.
Paul Pierce famously claims to be better than Dwayne Wade
“It’s easy,” Pierce said. “I could say that off the cuff. This is me. If you give me Shaq, if you give me LeBron, if you give me these guys early in my career…when I was 24 you give me Shaq, when I was 25 you give me LeBron…I would sit on five or six championships, easy. Who have I played with for 10 years? With whom?”
This prompted Rose to quite a retort, which Pierce harshly shut down.
Never forget when Paul Pierce said he was better than D-Wade… and Jalen Rose replied with that🤣 pic.twitter.com/A1Yq8sHUS8
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) August 7, 2022
“No retreat. No tracing. He (Wade) made the All-NBA First Team twice, Paul didn’t. He’s made All-NBA your four eight times. Wade shut down All-Defensive Team three times. He has won more scoring titles. You failed to win a scoring title. He has three rings, you have one ring.”
It is certainly difficult to dispute these facts. I don’t think anyone will ever debate who was the better two-way player between Pierce and Wade. Pierce wasn’t bad defensively. In fact, Kobe Bryant often spoke about how difficult it was playing against Pierce because of his physicality. Despite this, Wade was a top-flight defenseman in the NBA for many years.
In order to combat Pierce’s point about playing with Shaq at the age of 24, he has to forget something. Shaquille O’Neal with the Miami Heat wasn’t the same dominant Shaq we saw in Los Angeles. He was still very good, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. But he wasn’t the 30-15 giant we saw at the Lakers.
But the rest of Paul Pierce’s argument probably holds some water. He obviously hasn’t played with anyone remotely as good as LeBron James during his career. Early in Pierce’s career, Antoine Walker was the only other All-Star he played with. You would have a hard time remembering another player from these Celtics teams. Walter McCarty comes to mind and supports his point of view.
After a 10-year career, he has finally brought elite talent to his team. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined him in Boston. They immediately won the NBA championship in 2008. They then started the next season with an NBA record 27-2 before injuries marred that season. In 2010, they reached the NBA Finals again, losing to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in seven games.
Meanwhile, it can be argued that Wade never won as his team’s top player. LeBron was clearly the main reason behind his second and third titles. You can debate Shaq or Wade on the first.
Pierce, of course, took a lot of criticism after making the comment. But in hindsight, the two all-time greats are a lot closer than people thought.