BOSTON — Less than a decade after tears filled his eyes as he raised Boston’s 2008 title banner, Paul Pierce was all smiles as his No. 34 went the TD Garden rafters on Sunday afternoon as part of a jersey retirement celebration following Boston’s 121-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
Pierce is the 22nd number retired in Celtics history. He joined an eight-square banner that already featured the numbers of Dennis Johnson (3), Larry Bird (33), Kevin McHale (32), Reggie Lewis (35), Robert Parish (00), and Cedric Maxwell (31).
After raising his jersey, Pierce grabbed the Larry O’Brien trophy from the 2008 Finals and raised it at center court. Fans responded with a sustained “Thank You Paul Pierce” chant.
Flanked by his mother, his wife, and his three children, Pierce watched an on-court ceremony that featured members of Boston’s ownership and front office, retired Celtics legends, and former coaches and teammates. Wearing a green blazer, Pierce beamed as Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, former coach Doc Rivers, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge detailed Pierce’s accomplishments and what he meant to the franchise, especially in securing the team’s 17th title in 2008.
As part of the retirement celebration, the Celtics dubbed the tunnel their players walk out before games the “Paul Pierce Players’ Tunnel” and it features Pierce’s signature and No. 34 jersey number. The team said it hopes the designation will, “will serve as a reminder to all current and future players of what being a Celtic truly means.”
After Grousbeck detailed how watching Pierce during some of Boston’s leanest years helped inspire him to buy the team, Rivers gushed about Pierce’s fearlessness on the court.
“Someone asked me recently what is the one word you could come up with,” to describe Pierce, said Rivers. The Garden crowd quickly roared “Truth,” to which Rivers added, “You would say, ‘Truth.’ I would say, ‘Clutch.'”
Before Pierce’s speech, Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn narrated a tribute video that closed with him noting, “Inglewood made him, Kansas shaped him, but he was always a Celtic. And he’ll always be Boston. He belongs to us. We belong to him. As family, that’s forever. That is The Truth.”
During a dinner celebration of Pierce’s career on Saturday night in Boston, Pierce detailed how Boston’s retired numbers and title banners motivated him throughout his 15 seasons with the Celtics. Rivers believes there is no other team whose retired numbers resonate more.
“Before I got here I didn’t realize it. You always hear about the Celtics lore, but you didn’t get it if you weren’t in it. Then when you get in it and see guys like Bill Russell come around, and John Havlicek … It’s not about them. It really isn’t. It’s all about being a Celtic. There’s no organization, maybe in sports, that has that type of loyalty, and it started with Red [Auerbach].”
Sitting on the same baseline were members of Boston’s 2008 title team including Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Rivers. During stoppages in game action, the Celtics ran a series of videos celebrating Pierce’s basketball journey from Inglewood High to the University of Kansas to the Celtics.
The Celtics presented Pierce with a series of gifts during the postgame ceremony including a stained glass backboard with his No. 34, a piece of the Garden parquet floor, a replica of the banner his number now adorns, and a custom watch.