Boston Celtics fans collectively held their breath when Paul Pierce left Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals. The Hall of Famer appeared to have suffered a serious knee injury, which forced the medical staff to bring out a wheelchair and take him off of the court. However, The Truth returned just minutes later and led the Celtics to a 98-88 victory and eventually an NBA championship.
There have been many accounts and theories as to what actually happened to Pierce. The story has changed over the years, particularly from Pierce himself. But the 10-time All-Star has given a fresh account into the events of that evening and how the whole thing may have been unnecessary.
Paul Pierce claims he never required the wheelchair or asked for one
In an interview with former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the All The Smoke podcast, Pierce confronted the questions about what really transpired the night of the wheelchair.
“It was a light sprain, I ain’t going to lie,” Pierce admitted. “But I had never heard a ‘pop’. I heard a pop, and I’m thinking the worst.”
While he thought the injury was worse than it actually was, Pierce said there was no reason for the wheelchair.
“The doctor was like, ‘Get the wheelchair!’ It wasn’t like I couldn’t walk. They didn’t even give me a chance to try to get up and put weight on it … I look [back] at it too and I’m like, ‘This is super dramatic.'”Paul Pierce
Once Pierce got to the locker room, he was finally allowed to put weight on his leg. It was then when he realized that the injury was minor and that his first Finals weren’t going to be over after all.
“So I get up, put some weight on it, and it feels like a little light sprain,” said Pierce. “So I’m like, ‘OK, I’m good. I was just panicking.’ And I can’t get out in the Finals, not right now. So I put some weight on it, and I’m like, ‘I’m cool, I’m cool, give me a knee brace.’ And I put the knee brace on and just went back out there.”
Pierce’s story is different than the one he told on ESPN
Pierce may have given new insight into what transpired during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But it’s different than the admission he made while he was with ESPN.
During NBA Countdown in 2019, Pierce was on a panel consisting of Chauncey Billups, Jalen Rose, and host Michelle Beadle. Without warning, The Truth admitted to his co-workers that he had a confession regarding that fateful night.
“I just had to go to the bathroom,” Pierce said with a straight face. “Something went down, and I had to go to the restroom.”
From that point, it seemed as if the mystery was solved. But the Celtics legend immediately took to Twitter after his announcement to confirm that there was no foul play, pun intended.
Regardless of what actually happened, Pierce led the Boston Celtics to victory
There are people who will believe Pierce’s newest account; that the wheelchair was an unnecessary gesture. There will also be people who believe that his whole story stinks — again, pun intended. But regardless of why he left the game, Pierce re-emerged from the tunnel and cemented his place in Boston lore.
After re-entering the game, The Truth hit two three-pointers in just 22 seconds. He finished with 15 points in the third quarter alone and 22 for the game, just two off of Kevin Garnett‘s team-leading 24. Pierce followed up his Game 1 performance with 28 points in Game 2, 38 points in Game 5, and a Finals MVP award after the Celtics clinched the series in six.
Boston’s victory and his subsequent MVP award was the top moment of Pierce’s Hall of Fame career. But unfortunately for him, it’s still not the most memorable moment for The Truth.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.