Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce claimed LeBron James wasn’t a top-5 player of all-time on Wednesday, but his take comes with a couple extra grains of salt.
Every hero needs a villain who continuously tests them, fair or not, until they finally emerge the force they were meant to be all along. In basketball, such a story comes with the territory of being considered among the pound-for-pound bests to ever play the game. Michael Jordan had Bill Laimbeer and the Detroit Pistons. Miami Heat era LeBron James had Paul Pierce and the ‘Big 3’ Boston Celtics.
Similar to how Laimbeer has yet to give up his grudge decades later, declaring James the greatest NBA player of all-time over Jordan, Pierce has gone the extra mile to defame ‘The King’, suggesting he isn’t even among the best five athletes in the history of the sport.
We’d normally keep an open mind, but a quick look at the stats, thanks to Pro Basketball Reference, proves the point altogether. In 39 career regular season matchups, James outscored Pierce by a nine-point clip (29.3 to 20.2) and shot 6% better from the field. Those numbers did not shrink in the postseason either, as James maintained an even greater 12 points-per-game advantage over Pierce in 30 games.
Pierce is an NBA great and among the best players for one of the Association’s most storied franchises. Yet, his judgement is clouded by a pure, unadulterated dislike for the player who surmounted him in 2011.
Ironically enough, James went from being a villain in the wake of ‘The Decision’ to one of the more beloved players in the NBA today, while Pierce, whose team was hailed as the LeBron stoppers of their day, provides laughable opinions on network television.