Pierce and James have faced each other in the playoffs more often than Larry Bird ever faced Magic Johnson
Paul Pierce will still be in LeBron James’ conference when he joins the Washington Wizards this season–and that’s the way he likes it. Pierce’s accomplishments, especially in the latter half of his career, have turned him from a great talent into one of the greatest players in NBA history. But it’s come largely in the big shadow of planet LeBron, who’s swiped much of the attention that’s due the versatile Pierce. (And there’s Kobe’s claim on the basketball world’s attention, but he’s a Western Conference lifer.) At his best, Paul Pierce has as powerful an effect on critical basketball games as LeBron James usually does.
LeBron has even followed Pierce’s lead. Before LeBron’s move four years ago to Miami to begin his own Big Three, Pierce collected Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to win a Big Three-fueled championship in Boston. That Celtics squad wasn’t bothered by LeBron’s first-generation Cleveland Cavaliers. Pierce, nicknamed the Truth, was unstoppable in the 2008 finals–and named MVP. Pierce and James have faced each other in the playoffs more often than Larry Bird ever faced Magic Johnson. In signing with the Wizards after LeBron’s bolt for Cleveland, Pierce assures himself more chances to combat LeBron. He likes it that way. “Oh, we know each other,” James has said about Pierce. “More than any other matchup in the league. We know each other’s likes and dislikes.” In 2008 Pierce said: “I’m the best player. There’s a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don’t cross that line but I have a lot of confidence in myself.” He still does. He should. Paul Pierce is a Wizard.