Paul Pierce is the greatest Boston Celtic since Larry Bird. During his prime, he was among the most ruthless offensive players in the NBA and parlayed this massive scoring talent into ten All-Star berths, four All-NBA selections and a Finals MVP in 2008. Pull up YouTube and descend down the wormhole of Pierce’s clutchness: buzzer beaters silencing frothing road crowds, playoff daggers, a rich and varied array of duels against his nemesis, Lebron James. He was The Truth. Accordingly, he was recently named to the NBA 75, cementing his place as one of the greatest basketball players ever.
And yet, the question remains: why is Paul Pierce so embarrassing all the time?
For years, Pierce has been haunted by the rumor that he faked an injury and was carried off the court in a wheelchair in Game One of the 2008 NBA Finals to cover up the shame of pooping his pants during the third quarter. What was hailed at the time as a heroic, career-defining performance (Pierce scored 19 points in the second half to propel the Celtics victory after returning from his “injury”) has since been overshadowed by a post-facto extradiegetic reading of the game.
In 2019, Pierce himself seemed to confirm the rumor. “I have a confession to make,” he said, unprompted, during a pre-game show on ESPN, “I just had to go the bathroom.”
Now, though, Pierce insists he was just joshing and that his pants were, in fact, poopless. “If you poop your pants, does it make sense to sit down and mush it in a wheelchair?” Pierce asked Michelle Beadle on her podcast. “I would walk back there and go straight to the bathroom. Why would I need a wheelchair if I pooped my pants? You don’t sit down on your poop, right? It doesn’t make sense.”
And while this is a convincing argument, it’s also besides the point (and also, you would need a wheelchair to hide your dirtied shorts, duh). But really, it doesn’t matter whether Pierce pooped or not; it’s just a joke, Paul—nobody actually cares or truly believes that it’s true. Instead, the stranger and more debasing part of this is Pierce’s continued, unnecessary engagement with the rumor, as if he’s uncertain whether everyone is laughing at him or with him.
Outside of the uncertainty of his Schrodinger’s Scat, Pierce further became a punchline during his tenure as an NBA analyst on ESPN, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="http://<iframe width="853" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RrZEb_os2Xo" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>spewing a litany of wrong and befuddling takes—he declared that he had a better career than Dwyane Wade (he didn’t); he predicted that the Celtics would beat the Bucks in the 2019 playoffs (the Bucks won the series in five games); he asserted that Lebron James wasn’t one of the top five players of all time (he is). Even more ignominious, though, was his exit—Pierce was fired after broadcasting on Instagram Live a supremely depressing video of a weekday strippers and poker night with the fellas.
Ever since retiring in 2017, Pierce has seemingly labored to undo all of the goodwill he amassed over his career. No other NBA great is consistently as undignified as the former Celtic, despite Scottie Pippen’s spirited effort to usurp Pierce’s allegedly poop-smeared throne. Pierce is a Boston legend and a Hall of Fame basketball player; it’s a shame that his own weirdness has soiled his legacy, both literally and figuratively.