Paul Pierce believes this generation of basketball stars is tougher and more competitive than the current one. Naturally there is a subset of fans (likely of the age that grew up watching his era) who pump their fists and nod their head in agreement. “Yeah, where has all the hatred gone?” And this is laughable because just like Pierce we are willfully ignorant of our place in history. Breaking news: Every generation feels this way, and the previous one feels that way about you.
An easy, lazy, modern refrain is how Millennials are ruining everything. They’re entitled, directionless, self-indulgent, and narcissistic. There is no hope because of this generation of pampered softies. Which is pretty much how Generation X was described twenty years ago. Which is pretty much how hippies and flower children were derided in the ’60s and ’70s. Which is pretty much how Baby Boomers were criticized by their parents who grew up in the Great Depression. Which is pretty much how young people in the Roaring Twenties were pegged by those who came of age at the turn of the century.
Every person believes their specific era has some type of inherent integrity over those who follow, but it reality it’s just mental gymnastics. It’s a way for older people to cope with losing their youth, influence, and standing within society. Pierce was drafted in ’98 by the Celtics. Michael Jordan had just retired (again) and Larry, Magic, and Isiah were all more than five years out of the league. Any chance those guys – who lived incredibly physical battles on the floor – figured Pierce and his like were pampered, spoiled, uncompetitive AAU brats? Of course.
Pierce’s says, “Guys I don’t think they are as hungry or competitive as my generation was.” But let’s look at some of the players selected high in Pierce’s draft: Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz, Larry Hughes, Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Keon Clark. Pierce’s criticisms would stick with each and every one of them. But they’re technically part of your generation, right Paul?
Well, there’s busts in every draft class, DA! True. But one of the seminal moments of Pierce’s career led to more than a few eye rolls and accusations of being a drama queen. In the first NBA Finals game he ever played in, Pierce fell to the floor hard. He lay on the baseline writhing in pain, holding his right knee, seemingly having ripped a ligament or broken his leg. He had to be carted off the floor in a wheelchair (how often do we see a wheelchair!?). He returned “hopping” back to the court a mere three minutes of game time later, and then came back in to play without a limp. There were more than a few retired players who laughed at Pierce’s kabuki theater.
Pierce’s comments about this generation’s lack of ferocity all center around his critique of Kevin Durant joining the Warriors. He attempted to paint himself as a loyal soldier and ultimate teammate who would never leave his infantry until the battle was over. But that’s revisionist history. Let’s go back to critique of Pierce by a Celtics website before they had won a title, ten years into his career. Pierce “can be a ball hogging, shot forcing, immature, non-defender… (who) jaws with opponents and refs when he could be focusing on helping his team. He even sometimes acts immature to the point of hurting his team.”
But Pierce insists he’s, “an old-school guy.” Too bad all of these descriptions are the exact opposite of old-school. “I’m a competitor,” Pierce says. “Today’s day and age, a lot of these guys are friends. That’s like if Bird decided to go play with Magic or something… I’ve been in that position. I could have left Boston years ago, but I stuck it out. I just feel like when you’re that close, as a competitor, you don’t go join the team that just put you out.”
This is clearly just another blind spot for the delusional Pierce. He must not remember his lone championship came because of two future Hall of Famers leaving their teams and joining him in Boston. Kevin Garnett had played 12 seasons in Minnesota, and despite killing himself every night to lead them to a title (even getting to a Western Finals) he was convinced to drop his no-trade clause and leave the Wolves for a better shot at a championship. Ray Allen had toiled for Milwaukee and Seattle for 11 years before being shipped to Boston. Undoubtedly, he didn’t mind heading from a team that finished 20 games under .500 to a title contender.
What would be Pierce’s explanation if he was asked if he felt KG bailed on his franchise like Durant? You think Pierce ever thought about what it would be like playing elsewhere during the four seasons before the Big Three united, when the Celtics either missed the playoffs or were bounced in the first round? And how would Pierce counter when asked how he thinks players from the ’60s and ’70s felt about his so-called “toughness” while making up to $19 million per season, flying charter, and staying at 5-star hotels on the road? Tough might be more aptly described as making $30,000 a year, working two other jobs in the offseason, traveling to Ft. Wayne by train and staying at the Roadside Inn after playing double-headers in a gym from the turn of the century in front of 4,500 fans.
The point is not that Pierce, KG, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan weren’t mentally tough. They most certainly were to play as long as they did, and have the types of careers they had. The point is Pierce, like every other old person that gripes about the next generation, is wrapped in his own delusion. The youth is not worse than you. They are you. Because that was you.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.