Pierce previously suggested James was not one of the five greatest players in NBA history. Last summer, he said James assuredly would not belong among the greatest players in league history if the Los Angeles Lakers failed to win a championship.
James and the Lakers would go on to win the title, seemingly negating Pierce’s point. But the larger question seemed to be: does Paul Pierce have it out for LeBron James?
One of LeBron’s former teammates thinks he has the answer.
LeBron James and Paul Pierce had several playoff battles
James and Pierce met in the postseason on several occasions during Pierce’s playing days. Initially, it was Pierce’s Celtics getting the best of James’ Cavaliers teams.
The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers in the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals in the early stages of their title run. James, in particular, struggled during that series, shooting just over 35 percent from the field and averaging over five turnovers per game.
Boston again got the better of James and the Cavs in the 2010 conference semifinals, overcoming a 2-1 deficit to win the series in six games. That defeat marked the end of LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland, as “King James” would sign with the Miami Heat later that series.
The tide turned once James made the move to South Beach. Miami disposed of Pierce and the Celtics in just five games in the 2011 conference semifinals. Boston held a 3-2 lead in the 2012 conference finals but lost each of the next two games after James propelled the Heat with a spectacular, 45-point performance in Game 6. It was Pierce’s last real crack at James.
The two stars squared off once more in 2014. However, Pierce was an aging star on a Brooklyn Nets team that didn’t stand a chance against James’ seasoned Heat squad. Miami overpowered Brooklyn in five games.
Mario Chalmers hints at Pierce resenting James’ popularity
Mario Chalmers played with James for four seasons in Miami, so he got to see the battles unfold up close and personal. Chalmers thinks the rivalry might be a legacy thing for Pierce.
“I think it’s something personal,” Chalmers told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Heavy.com. He elaborated, suggesting James’ brilliance may have overshadowed Pierce’s own excellence.
“But for me, I just feel like Paul Pierce never got the respect that he deserved when it comes to him being that type of caliber player he is – because when you think about the top small forwards, you don’t name Paul Pierce,” Chalmers told Robinson. “You name T-Mac, Scottie Pippen, James Worthy… you name guys like that. And I just feel like when they named ‘Bron he’s like he’s did things and I should be up there too, I did just as much as these guys did; I got the ring, I got the numbers…why is my name NOT up there?”
It’s not as though Pierce doesn’t get any acknowledgment as one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is one of the headliners in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
Still, Chalmers suggests that Pierce does not get the acclaim he feels he deserves, partially because he played in the same era as James.
“The Truth” demands more respect
Paul Pierce is a Celtics legend and certainly deserving of more praise.
Pierce trails only Bill Russell and Larry Bird on the Celtics’ all-time win shares list. He ranks second in scoring and is the all-time leader in steals while also ranking fifth in assists. He owns a championship ring and is widely considered one of the best clutch scorers in NBA history.
“The Truth” has made headlines for less savory reasons over the past few months. But make no mistake, Pierce could ball.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.