As one of the greatest players to ever play for one of the most storied franchises in the NBA, Paul Pierce is a beloved icon in Boston. Trailing only John Havlicek -- and ahead of Larry Bird -- on the franchise's all-time scoring list, Pierce brought the Celtics their first NBA title since 1986, ending a long drought that included many frustrating seasons in which losses piled up at an alarming rate. Having completed 17 NBA seasons and racking up 10 All-Star appearances, Pierce has earned the respect of players, coaches, executives and fans with his career accomplishments, but that does not mean he is universally liked or appreciated.
The 2008 NBA Finals MVP has developed a reputation as a clutch player who enjoys trash-talking his opponents into poor performances. Over the years, Pierce has clashed with opponents and teammates alike, publicly criticizing more than a few through the media. He has even goaded team executives into responding to his antics and it should not be surprising that he has routinely drawn the ire of opposing fanbases. A master of the thinly veiled slight, Pierce once snubbed a young fan looking for a high-five simply because he was wearing a LeBron James jersey.
While the following 15 people – or, in some cases, entire groups of people – all dislike Paul Pierce in some way, it is not always the case that they hate the surefire future Hall of Famer on a deeply personal level. Some certainly do and have openly expressed as much, but many still acknowledge a certain level of respect for what Pierce has been able to do while scoring over 25,000 career points as a member of the Celtics, Nets and Wizards. Now reunited with Doc Rivers and returning to his hometown to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, Pierce will again assume the role of elder statesmen and occasional late-game scoring option, perhaps inspiring even more disdain among opponents in the coming seasons.
15 Dennis Schröder
The 2015 NBA Playoffs only served to confirm Pierce’s status as a clutch performer who relishes big-game moments, as he was exceptional in a sweep of the Raptors and gave the Atlanta Hawks fits during their second-round series. Pierce hit a game-winning three-pointer to give the Wizards a 2-1 series lead, leading to the delightful exchange in which Pierce, after being asked by ESPN's Chris Broussard if he called bank, paused for a beat and said, "I called game!" In his postgame comments, Schröder disagreed, instead slighting the NBA legend’s performance by saying, "It was a lucky shot and we lost the game."
Pierce laughed off Schröder’s dismissive assessment, perhaps referencing the fact that Schröder was just five years old when Pierce made his NBA debut by saying, "I guess Schröder's going to say that 'cause he's a little young. He hasn't been able to see it over the past 17 years.” The Hawks won in six, with Pierce making a last-second 3-pointer in Game 6 that appeared to send the game to overtime, but the shot was disallowed upon replay review and the Hawks moved on.
14 Al Harrington
During the 2003 NBA Playoffs, the sixth-seeded Boston Celtics upset the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in a first-round matchup, closing out the series in six games. One of those victories included an embarrassing moment in which Pierce allowed most of the time on the shot clock to wind down simply so he could trash-talk his defender, Al Harrington. With 3.6 seconds left on the 24-second clock, Pierce knocked down a 3-pointer in Harrington’s face, leading to what is one of the more memorable moments of Pierce’s career and one of the more embarrassing of Harrington’s.
13 Mark Cuban
Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks who was recently spurned by DeAndre Jordan in free agency, has not expressed any specific animosity toward Pierce and his dislike for the current teammate of Jordan’s is purely speculative. With that being said, the fact that Pierce was part of the group that successfully convinced Jordan to back out of a verbal agreement with the Mavs had to stir up a bit of dislike on Cuban’s part, especially considering the fact that Pierce’s foray into the emoji-laden recruitment battle demonstrated that the 37-year-old is not exactly tech savvy.
Pierce, now Jordan's teammate, tweeted out a picture of an old-school clip art rocket ship, drawing far more attention due to his lack of tech skills during the Jordan flip-flop fiasco than Cuban, the tech billionaire who may have at least been trying to salvage something positive from all the attention the situation drew by releasing statements through his start-up messaging application, Cyber Dust. Unfortunately, it was "Old Man Pierce" who won the Internet and will now get to play with one of the best defensive men in basketball.
Conspiracy theorists might also recognize that Jordan's change of heart had a ripple effect that actually helps the Celtics, who own the Mavs' 2016 draft pick as part of the Rajon Rondo deal. The pick is protected if it falls in the first seven spots of the draft, but it now looks like Boston could end up with a late-lottery pick given the fact that the Mavs appear to be a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot without Jordan rather than battling for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference with him. Pierce has said in the past that he would like to join an NBA front office one day and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has said he is open to the idea, so it could be that the former Celtics captain is already laying the foundation for his future. Or it could be just a massive coincidence.
12 Joakim Noah
Paul Pierce and his former teammate Kevin Garnett have tormented Noah over the years, and while KG and Noah’s rivalry is certainly more intense, Pierce and Noah have had their fair share of skirmishes as well. The most recent incident came during the 2014 preseason, with Pierce jawing with Noah and ultimately poking him in the forehead while having to be separated by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
11 George Karl
Karl never coached Pierce in the NBA, but he was the coach of the incredibly disappointing Team USA squad that finished sixth in the World Basketball Championships held in Indianapolis. Pierce and Karl reportedly clashed, with Pierce explaining in the aftermath that coaching was at least partly responsible for the poor result, saying of Karl: “I don't think he's a players' coach, straight up. It wasn't only me, but a number of the players didn't respond to what he was saying or understand what he was trying to do. But me, I just play my part. I'm never going to question what he needs to do in practices, what he needs to do in games.”
Pierce would also note what he took away from his Team USA experience, saying, “I learned not to go play USA basketball if George Karl is the coach.” Karl benched Pierce during the final quarter of the team’s fifth-place game against Spain and later admitted that he and Pierce had issues during the tournament.
Of course, time has healed those old wounds and Karl has since offered praise of Pierce’s growth in the time since the World Basketball Championships, telling the Boston Herald in 2013 before a matchup between the Celtics and Nuggets, “I coached Paul in 2002 and I thought he was a triple double machine then. He’s one of these players who, when he puts his mind to something he’s capable of getting it done. He’s taken over responsibility with Rondo out, and they’ve given him that leadership.”
If Drake didn’t harbor any resentment after Pierce shoved the celebrity superfan out of the way during an inbounds play, then he most certainly should after the way Pierce insulted him via social media. Following the Wizards’ four-game sweep of the Raptors, Pierce posted several photoshopped images of Drake and his album cover to Twitter:
Well played Mr. Pierce.
9 Kobe Bryant
Pierce won his first and only NBA championship by defeating a Lakers team led by Kobe Bryant, winning the Finals MVP in 2008. In the summer that followed, a reporter asked Pierce if Kobe was really the best player in the world, to which Pierce replied, “I don't think Kobe is the best player. 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." On-court battles and frequent trash talk were common each time the Lakers and Celtics played, with both Pierce and Kobe badly wanting to beat the other.
The two players sparred on the court on many occasions, with Bryant and the Lakers taking down the Celtics in a championship rematch in 2010. Now that both Bryant and Pierce are in the twilight of their careers, they have begun to express a great deal of mutual admiration, with Pierce referring to Kobe as an “icon” that “defined his generation” and Kobe saying that he has modeled his game after Pierce’s to remain effective late in his career.
8 Masai Ujiri
In two consecutive playoffs while playing for two different teams in the Nets and the Wizards, Pierce was at least partly responsible for goading Ujiri into making comments that would ultimately earn the Raptors GM a substantial fine from the NBA. After Pierce noted that Toronto doesn’t have “the ‘It’ that makes you worried,” Ujiri responded to Pierce during a pregame rally in Toronto, saying, "I know everybody wants me to say something about Paul Pierce. This is what I'm going to say: We don't give a s--- about it."
As a result of the profane pregame commentary, Ujiri was fined $35,000 by the NBA, an increase over the $25,000 fine he drew the previous postseason, when he yelled “F--- Brooklyn” during a pregame rally. When Pierce was informed of what the GM of the Raptors had said, Pierce insulted Ujiri in his typically subtle-but-no-so-subtle fashion, saying, “I’m shocked Bryan Colangelo would make such a comment,” referring, of course, to the former GM of the Raptors and Ujiri's predecessor.
7 LeBron James
Just like Kobe Bryant, the longstanding rivalry between LeBron James and Paul Pierce has evolved into mutual respect, with LeBron praising Pierce for forcing him to elevate his game and Pierce explaining that the nature of the rivalry is “misunderstood.” It was Pierce and the Celtics that ousted LeBron in his last season with the Cavaliers before “The Decision,” and each matchup between the two led to some of the best moments of their respective careers.
Before they came to admire each other, Pierce trash-talked a young LeBron James and spit at the Cavs’ bench during a preseason game, leading to a $15,000 fine and a postgame incident in which “Pierce’s teammates had to literally carry him away to prevent an altercation.”
In their first playoff matchup in 2008, the Celtics eliminated the Cavs on their way to the title. This was the series in which, after a hard foul from Pierce dragged the two into the stands, LeBron had to tell his mother to “sit your a-- down” after she attempted to get into the mix of players to defend her son.
In 2010, the Celtics eliminated the Cavaliers again, this time with Pierce’s defense shutting LeBron down. Pierce and the Celtics won the last three games of the series after the Cavs had taken a 2-1 series lead, and Pierce held a frustrated LeBron to 21.3 points per game on 34 percent shooting over those three consecutive losses. LeBron then famously stormed off the court, removed his jersey and took off for Miami.
6 Toronto Raptors Fans
Visitors to Toronto often cite the friendliness of residents as part of the city’s appeal, but that friendliness does not extend to Pierce. In a rally before the first game of the 2015 NBA Playoffs, fans of the Raptors could be heard chanting, “Let’s Go Raptors, F**k Paul Pierce!” Inside the arena, fans serenaded the Wizards’ veteran leader with chants of “Paul Pierce Sucks,” during the game’s opening minutes.
Of course, the impetus for this derision came from comments made by Pierce before the series began, with Pierce explaining the irrelevance of the Wizards’ 0-3 regular-season record against the Raptors by saying, “We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried.” Pierce and the Wizards swept Toronto and Pierce took the opportunity to rub salt in the wound by declaring himself the “King in the North.”
5 J.R. Smith
When Pierce was traded from the Celtics to the Nets during the summer of 2013, he immediately set his sights on the New York Knicks by referencing his long-standing hatred of the Atlantic Division rival and suggesting the Nets were going to take over New York. Smith, then still a member of the Knicks, took exception and, in an ESPN article, referred to Pierce as, “a bitter person just getting out of Boston. He doesn't really know what New York is all about. He's been playing in Boston his whole career."
Smith also aimed a not-so-subtle threat at Pierce by saying, "He just knows, just know that his words have consequences and he's going to have to pay for them." When told of the comments made by Smith, Pierce responded by saying, "Who? Exactly. Who? Who are we talking about right now? Exactly. Who are we talking about? We are talking about nothing." The Knicks did get the best of the Nets in the season series, winning three out of four, but it was the Nets who were the only team to represent New York in the playoffs that year.
4 Ray Allen
Pierce and Kevin Garnett have both said that they have not spoken to Ray Allen since their former teammate defected to Miami following the 2012 playoffs. Despite being a major part of a Celtics title team and two 60-win seasons in five years, Pierce stated that Allen was never really a part of the so-called “Big Three” in Boston. Though they got along on the court, Pierce said that he and Allen were never close, saying instead that it was a “weird relationship.”
Pierce noted that Sam Cassell – not Allen – was the third member of the highly successful trio that was the core of the 2008 title run, though in fairness to Pierce the context of the comments seem to relate more to social interactions than team contributions. Still, in the interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, Pierce was quoted as saying, “In a lot of ways, me, Sam and Kevin were our Big Three.” Between the sniping from KG and Pierce and the fact that Allen has not spoken to many of his former Celtics teammates for a period of several years, it’s safe to say that the sort-of retired sharpshooter harbors a strong dislike for Pierce.
3 Deron Williams
Pierce spent just one season in Brooklyn before signing with the Washington Wizards as a free agent, but in that time he felt he was able to make an accurate assessment of Williams’ shortcomings as an NBA player. In a recent interview with ESPN reporter Jackie MacMullan, Pierce, referring to his time with the Nets, said, "Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate. But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that. I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.''
Williams did not take any shots at Pierce in response, only saying of the criticism, “Being here, I got pretty thick skin,” Williams said. “He has his opinions, and that’s fine. It’s what it is. I can’t change his opinions. So just leave it at that.” While he did not take the opportunity to slight Pierce, surely he could not have been very pleased that a former teammate and future Hall of Famer felt that Williams’ leadership qualities were so poor that the team would have “folded up,” and “packed it in,” if not for the presence of KG and Pierce.
2 Los Angeles Lakers Fans
Despite the fact that Pierce grew up in Inglewood rooting for the Lakers, fans of the team truly hate the former Celtic captain for a number of reasons. Obviously, Laker fans tend to despise just about any member of the Boston Celtics, but Pierce pushed this hatred to a new level during the 2008 NBA Finals. In the first game, Pierce went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off the floor in a wheelchair, only to return to the game to finish with 22 points, 11 of which came after the wheelchair incident.
Just about everyone outside of Boston felt that the wheelchair episode was just another instance of Pierce being, as Quentin Richardson would say, an “actress.” Of course, the Celtics went on to win the title that year and the animosity felt by Laker fans towards Pierce has only grown in the years since.
1 Quentin Richardson
As a member of the Miami Heat during the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Richardson added another chapter to his feud with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett by calling them “actresses.” When asked about the altercation between himself, Garnett and Pierce, among others, Richardson told ESPN, "He started to talk to me, so I talked back," Richardson said. "I don't have any business talking to [Pierce], he was on the ground crying. I don't know what was going on, two actresses over there, that's what they are."
Richardson then went on to confirm his distaste for both Pierce and Garnett, saying, "I don't like them, and they know it. Sometimes he [Pierce] falls like he's about to be out for the season, and then he gets right up.” Apparently, Richardson’s hatred for Pierce goes back quite a while, as Pierce once served as Richardson’s host while he was on a recruiting trip at the University of Kansas. Richardson and Pierce have had numerous on-court confrontations in the years that followed, including one in which Richardson was ejected but continued to yell at Pierce as he was escorted through the tunnel at Madison Square Garden.