Paul Pierce, the Celtics great who had a cup of coffee with the Nets during the 2013-14 season, will be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, the culmination of a long and storied career that ended in 2017.
Meanwhile, Pierce’s broadcasting career with ESPN ended in April – and that ending garnered headlines too.
The 43-year-old Pierce had a messy breakup with ESPN after the network fired him following a video that went viral of Pierce at a gathering with strippers. Pierce had recorded the video on Instagram Live.
“When he finished, he deleted it,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix wrote in a piece for SI that was published Tuesday. “He didn’t know IG Lives can be recorded (they can) and reposted (it was). Pierce went home that night thinking no one noticed. He woke up the next day and discovered everyone had.”
And that was the end of Pierce and ESPN.
“The relationship between Pierce and the network had become strained over the past two years,” Mannix wrote. “Pierce hated the travel. Network executives didn’t think he was working hard enough. The video, industry sources told Sports Illustrated, was the last straw. ‘I was done with them, anyway,’ says Pierce between pulls of lemon mint. ‘It wasn’t a great fit. There’s a lot of stuff over there that you can’t say. And you have to talk about LeBron all the time.’”
Pierce, after all, got enough of the Lakers superstar during his playing career. Though Pierce began 2-0 in defeating LeBron in playoff series, the two faced each other in three more playoff series after that – and LeBron won all three.
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Pierce Didn’t Feel He Had to Apologize
Pierce was adamant the entire time about the same point: He felt he hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, Pierce’s longtime agent, Jeff Schwartz, encouraged his client to apologize in an effort to potentially smooth things over with Hall of Fame voters who might have been rubbed the wrong way by the incident, according to Mannix.
Pierce wasn’t budging.
“Come on, I didn’t do anything illegal,” Pierce said, per Mannix. “These motherf****** in the Hall of Fame, some did [cocaine], F****** battery. What the f*** did I do? I was just having a good time. All the people coming after me, half you motherf****** do the same s***. You’re just hiding it. And you all are married while you’re doing it. I’m divorced. I’m retired. I’m having fun.
“If I didn’t make it with this class, it would be the biggest stiff job in Hall of Fame history.”
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HOF Was Never Pierce’s Dream
Pierce was already near the tail end of his career when he joined the Nets; he was certainly past his prime, averaging only 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for Brooklyn in 2013-14. For his career, though, Pierce was a 10-time All-Star who averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
But the Hall of Fame wasn’t necessarily Pierce’s dream.
“It’s hard to be a kid and say, ‘I want to make the Hall of Fame,’” Pierce said, per Mannix. “I think all the players who make it play like they are going to go out and go as hard as they can, and the results at the end of the day, that’s what your career is.”
Still, Mannix notes that Pierce certainly relishes the honor. “Because,” Mannix wrote, “many NBA teams—nine, if we’re being specific—passed on the chance to pick a Hall of Famer.”