Paul Pierce scoring-best Celtic? best Californian?

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CSNNE analyst, Tom Heinsohn, had this comment upon Paul Pierce's final appearance at TD Garden in Boston:

"I still think he's the best offensive player that the Celtics had--I should say scorer."

In the same interview, Heinsohn, former Celtics player and coach, suggested that Larry Bird may have been the better offensive player, but Paul was the better scorer because he took more shots. Tom changing the category from offensive skills to scoring makes the comparisons much easier. Numbers don't reveal everything, but let's look at them.

John Havicek played 16 seasons with the Celtics. Pierce played 15 seasons with Boston, and Bird played 13. Havlicek totaled 26,395 points. Pierce had a career total of 24,021, and Bird scored 21,791. Havlicek is the winner on total career points, followed by Pierce and then Bird.

Total career points speak for themselves. But the various shooting percentages reveal the scoring efficiency. A look at field goal percentage (FG%) shows Larry leads with 49.6%, followed by Pierce with 44.5% and then Havlicek with 43.9%. There was no three-point shot during Hondo's era, so that will not be considered.

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Free throw percentage stats (FT%) indicate Bird leading with 88.6%; John at 81.5%; and Paul averaging 80.6%. The numbers by themselves would suggest The Legend as the best scorer, followed by Hondo and then The Truth.

But think of this. Havlicek only had to carry his team for one season (1969-70) between the departure of Bill Russell and Sam Jones, and the arrival of Dave Cowens. Bird always had a very good supporting cast. But Pierce almost literally put the team on his back in the early 2000's. His relentless, determined play was iconic. I agree with Tom Heinsohn. He gets my vote for best all-time Celtics scorer.

Determining the best player from Paul Pierce's home state of California can be a bit nebulous. Defining "from" is one question. Does that mean born, raised or inhabited? Three of the top choices would be Pierce, Reggie Miller and Gary Payton. Looking only at scoring, Pierce leads at 26,397 career points, followed by Miller with 25,279 and Payton with 21,813. Reggie and Gary give Paul heavy competition for best NBA player from California, but he clearly outscored both during his career.

Both Pierce and former NBA player, Reggie Theus, attended Inglewood High School in California. On one past occasion, Reggie jokingly asked Paul, " does it feel to be the second best player out of Inglewood High School?" Note the smile on Theus' face when he tells the story in the video below. But also pay attention to Red Auerbach's smirk in the poster behind Reggie. It's as if they both had previously agreed that such a claim was absurd.

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Respect for Pierce grew as his game kept improving. One of his admirers was Shaquille O'Neal. During an interview, Shaq had this to say: (as per NBPA in First Person)

“Take this down. My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.”

Paul Pierce is an all-time great NBA player and fine citizen.. He is a future Hall of Famer. He doesn't belong to California. He is one of us. And that's the truth!

Credit: Statistics via