Issue 72: Important Moments in NBA History: Injury or Bathroom Break?

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One time a friend asked me about seminal moments in NBA history. They said something along the lines of “pretend I don’t know anything” (check) and to share a few moments to help them fake their way through any conversation that may come up around basketball.

I’m all for impressive shots like Michael Jordan’s final basket as a Bull or the Kawhi Leonard high-arcing jumper that bounced on the rim four times before falling in.

But the true joy of basketball lies in those moments we don’t get to see every day. The fun behind the scenes, interesting stories, or maybe a player overcoming tremendous odds to reach new levels of success.

You may have heard Paul Pierce is in the news. The former NBA-er was fired earlier this week from ESPN after hosting a racy Instagram Live that featured women in bikinis, alcohol, and marijuana.

That’s the first time an NBA player has been involved with those things, so ESPN made quick work of Pierce. The Onion mourned accordingly.

During his playing days, Pierce was a regular All-Star with the Boston Celtics. And there’s one memory in particular that sticks out.

Let’s hop back to June 5, 2008…

With 6:49 left in the third quarter during Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Pierce suffered what looked like a terrible knee injury. He was carried off the court, placed in a wheelchair, and sent to the locker room. You could feel the air sucked out of the building as Celtics fans watched their team’s leader head off.

Mere minutes later, Pierce returned, jubilant and triumphant. The Celtics went on to win the game 98-88. Boston won the series in six games, giving the Celtics franchise yet another championship.

Let’s break this down a little further since it’s a story that took an interesting twist several years later. At the time, it was already pretty ridiculous.

The Moment of (the) Truth

The Celtics had long been mediocre but were rejuvenated in 2008 after acquiring stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to pair with Pierce. And here they were, in the NBA Finals, just four wins away from bringing a championship back to Boston (the Celtics have won approximately 687 titles in NBA history, but it had been a hot minute since their last one).

All of a sudden, Pierce crumples underneath the basket. He’s in pain. He’s lifted up by the armpits and legs like a child that suddenly goes limp when you’re trying to pick them up off the ground because playtime is over, CLAYTON.

The team even wheeled out a wheelchair for him, so he could be pushed off in style. Why not just have a ton of dramatic effect, you know?

The Celtics had been playing well as a whole, but dang…could the team recover from this? During all the bad years, Pierce had been the rock, the consistent face of the franchise. Now he was hurt with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

But before you could say “whoa, that’s a serious knee injury!” Pierce came triumphantly running out of the locker room and back onto the court.

He had a little bit of a bandage around his knee, but otherwise, he showed no ill effects. You might even say he had a bit of pep in his step as he bounded back out of the tunnel towards the court.

He re-entered the game, played very well, and the Celtics won the game. As I noted above, they also won the championship that year, and Pierce played a big role in that. Would they have won if Pierce had been seriously injured? Who knows?

Fast forward to 2019

After he retired, Pierce became an analyst for ABC and ESPN (the same ESPN that just fired him). He was chatting with his fellow analysts and admitted on a broadcast that he really just needed a toilet on that magical June day in 2008. In fact, he insinuated he may have actually gone to the bathroom on the court, in his shorts.

If you’ve ever tried to hold your business, you know it’s no easy feat. But to do it while playing in an NBA championship series, against some of the best athletes in the world?

That’s some truly impressive shit right there. (I’ll see myself out.)

Actually, before I do, after his admission, Pierce followed up with a tweet only a few hours later:

What a fabulous tweet. Hashtagged emojis. An unnecessary capitalization after the poomojis. A call out of the “haters bubble.”

But it only adds more intrigue to the whole situation. It’s a real whodunnit, except we know the who is Pierce. So I guess it’s more of a whatdunnit, or a Piercedunnwhat.

In any case, if you ever want to get into a lengthy discussion with a basketball fan, just ask them what they thought happened with Paul Pierce in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They might think he’s full of crap, or, you know, full of crap.

(Okay, for real, I’ll see myself out this time.)

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That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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