Over 19 NBA seasons, Paul Pierce shot his way to becoming the NBA’s 15th all-time leading scorer and possibly a future place in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. In a podcast interview this week, Pierce admitted after a 2000 stabbing incident, he became so paranoid he carried a gun for two years and was ready to shoot and kill someone at a moment’s notice.
Paul Pierce’s impressive career numbers
When the Boston Celtics selected Paul Pierce out of Kansas as the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, they expected the small forward to come in and have an immediate impact. Pierce didn’t disappoint.
In his first season with the Celtics, the 21-year-old rookie was a highlight in an otherwise disappointing season in Boston, averaging 16.5 points per game with six rebounds. It was a sign of things to come.
During the next 18 seasons, 14 of which were in Boston, Pierce developed a reputation as a sharpshooter from outside and was nicknamed “The Truth” by Shaquille O’Neal after a 2001 matchup between the Lakers and Celtics where Pierce scored 42 points on 13-of-19 shooting.
The 10-time All-Star, averaged 19.7 points per game over his career and in 2008, along with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title. Pierce was named Finals MVP.
Throughout his career, Pierce put up big numbers and earned numerous awards, all of which could potentially land him in the Hall of Fame one day in the future. However, his career and life almost all came to an abrupt end one September night in 2000.
Pierce stabbed at night club
On September 25, 2000, Pierce along with teammate Tony Battie and his brother, went out for a night of partying at Buzz Club, a dance club in the Boston Theater District.
At some point, Pierce got into a confrontation with another customer and the altercation turned violent. Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back. He also had a bottle smashed over his head.
Battie and his brother rushed Pierce to a nearby hospital where doctors performed emergency lung surgery to repair the damage including one wound that was seven inches deep.
Amazingly, Pierce recovered so quickly from his injuries he started all 82 games in the 2000–01 season. While the physical wounds had healed, Pierce struggled mentally. In a 2018 interview, he admitted to battling depression for a year after the incident and becoming paranoid in and around crowds.
Pierce admits he was ready to kill
In an interview this week on the “All the Smoke” podcast hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Pierce expanded on the internal battles he faced following the 2000 stabbing.
Pierce repeated what he had said in 2018 about having trouble in crowds. In addition, Pierce said he couldn’t sleep and he had 24-hour police surveillance of his house. And then Pierce offered up his biggest revelation.
“People don’t know this, but I actually carried a gun for two years right after that. I was so paranoid. Like, I kept it in the car, I had it on me. I was so paranoid after that. I was just like, I couldn’t be in crowds. Something like that happens to you, man, it’s traumatic. It changes you, dude. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know who to look at. You’re really on your toes, like, ‘Man, I’ll kill somebody.'”
Pierce eventually sought counseling and overcame his fears and paranoia. In 2003, Pierce pledged $2.5 million to help expand the high-tech surgical center at Tufts-New England Medical Center, where he recovered following the incident.
In 2017, Pierce retired, and in 2018 the Celtics retired his number, the 23rd person in the storied franchise’s history to receive that honor.
There’s no denying Paul Pierce had a remarkable NBA career. It’s even more amazing when you consider it almost ended before it ever really got started.