On Sunday, the Boston Celtics will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.
After spending his glory days as a member of the Celtics, the organization will raise his number to the rafters alongside some of the greatest players to ever live.
Celtics legend Robert Parish called him the “greatest offensive Celtic ever” in a reception on Saturday night, despite the fact that Hall of Famers Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird all suited up for the franchise.
"I just think that Paul was more creative. He was a better scorer than Larry [Bird] and John Havlicek. I think that Larry and John Havlicek and Paul were the best offensive players that the Celtics ever had. I think Paul tops that list in my opinion,” Parish explained, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg.
Pierce’s ascension to stardom was not easy. He grew up in a rough neighborhood around a lot of gang activity. Shortly into his career in Boston, he was stabbed multiple times in a nightclub. He was also not a supremely athletic talent on the court, which led to the creativity that Parish pointed out.
Speaking at the event, Pierce explained what inspired him to get past those obstacles and succeed during his time in Boston.
"Every day I walk into the practice facility and see those numbers. Every day in the arena, you see these numbers. That was inspirational," Pierce said. "Those numbers hanging up there, those banners, it was like, 'One day, I want to be up there.' I want to be with this franchise long enough because when you look at the numbers and see the accomplishments they made, that was an example for me to try to follow.”
He continued, ”That was the burning desire. Everyday. It's like the pressure. It's like raining everyday on you. You come up here, well, how do you live up these guys? How do you live up to [Kevin] McHale, Bird, Parish? ... It's great just to have that hanging over your head, something you're trying to strive for. Just some legendary names in there, and for me to be mentioned and sitting on the side of those guys is just a tremendous honor.”
He also shared the message that he wants every young Celtic to understand.
"I just want the younger players to understand that you wear this uniform, not for the name on the back, but it's all about Celtics pride," Pierce noted. "You hear that so much in this city, and lot of people don't know what that is. It's more than just how you are just a player. It's how you carry yourself. It's the things you do off the court. It's how you represent the Celtic family, and these guys up there before you. I'm thankful that I was able to do that. It goes further than basketball, and I want the young generation to understand that."
Judging by the emotion that he showed at the reception, it will be quite the moment when the home crowd stands to their feet and applauds the career and legacy of one of the franchise’s best and most beloved figures.