Pierce Still Seeking Retirement Niche


In the NBA world, Paul Pierce attained legend status.

As was alluded to in an episode of The Hooper’s Log podcast back in 2018, this status is probably not appreciated like it should be. Pierce seems to be overlooked or dismissed more often than he should be, both in the context of Boston sports and 21st-century NBA lore.

The man was an incredible player and a deserving champion.

In his retirement, however, Pierce has proven to be somewhat restless, and has demonstrated a penchant for self-sabotage. It’s fair to say he’s done his reputation no favors since hanging up his sneakers. To recap, here are some of the highlights of Pierce’s early years of retirement — from the broadcast booth, to the poker tables, to the Hall of Fame.

Pierce as a Commentator

Pierce’s first major step as an NBA retiree was to join ESPN as a broadcaster and commentator. He was… fine. As a voice in analysis fresh off the court, Pierce was often looked to for insight on players he’d battled on the court whether that meant discussing LeBron James‘ playoff performances or where the Celtics were headed next.

He filled this role, but did so in a more-or-less forgettable manner. Pierce didn’t offer the clear basketball analysis of, say, Dwyane Wade or Vince Carter; he didn’t provide the personality we see from Draymond Green in his early forays into analysis; he wasn’t able to establish an individual style the way his former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett has.

He was just fine.

“Fine” didn’t last very long, though. Earlier this year, Pierce was let go by ESPN over footage of what Defector cheekily termed a “grim men’s evening.” Pierce inexplicably took to social media to showcase an evening with poker and strippers as well as apparent substance abuse, and followed it up in the coming days with a series of carefree posts.

One could almost have wondered if he was intentionally getting himself fired by ESPN.

Pierce Playing Poker

Alongside his home poker nights, Pierce has also become more of a mainstay at public poker tables since his retirement (though he played during his playing career as well). Pierce is known to be an avid competitor in Texas Hold’em tournaments, which remains the most well-known and most popular variety of poker in the world — and which is closely associated with tournament play, high-roller betting and so on.

Pierce appears to be attracted to these aspects of the game, and has shown up repeatedly at casino Hold’em tables and in various showcase events — sometimes alongside pro players.

That’s all well and good. There’s nothing wrong with poker, and Pierce is by no means the only current or former NBA player who takes an interest in Hold’em. He’s had some success, too, to the point that Celtics Wire even posted a clip of some of his most impressive poker hands last year.

The issue, rather, is that the home poker-night social-media videos were not the only examples of Pierce more or less embarrassing himself while playing. More recently, videos surfaced of Pierce harassing a waitress during what looked to be a somewhat exclusive poker game.

It was a bad look to say the least.

Pierce’s Hall-Of-Fame Induction

Then there was the Hall Of Fame induction — which wasn’t a huge deal, but probably didn’t do Pierce any favors with the general basketball public. Pierce used his platform at the time of his induction to call out the teams that didn’t draft him, and to bemoan the fact that he fell to 10th back in 1998.

Now, this isn’t a wholly unusual way to think. Lots of professional athletes use these types of things for motivation, and Pierce is far from the first to take a “thanks to all the haters” approach when accepting an honor. Furthermore, there was plenty in Pierce’s speech that was gracious and amicable.

But coming from a guy who is sometimes overlooked, who did fall short of the level of his chief rivals, and who’s done little to earn admiration in retirement, there was something small about the defensive side of the speech.

Now — A Podcast?

The points above describe Pierce’s retirement to date, and in less-than-flattering terms. Now, however, there are whispers of a new venture. Per NBC Sports, Pierce and Garnett seem to have been working on an “unfiltered” podcast together.

This, frankly, might be the perfect avenue. We love nostalgia in sports, and at one point there may well have been a built-in audience of general NBA fans and Boston faithful alike who’d have tuned in to hear Pierce and Garnett recording their chats. It may still be just the thing to reboot Pierce’s retirement and give him the unrestricted spotlight he seems to yearn for.

The question now is whether anyone still wants to hear it.

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