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The war of words between Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce is continuing.
In an interview with Sopan Deb of the New York Times, Wade said he “didn’t play the game to be better than Paul Pierce” when asked about some of the recent comments Pierce made about him:
“I’m living rent-free right now.
“I got so many things going on in my life. Comparing myself to someone who’s not playing or someone who is playing is definitely not on my to-do list. Listen, Paul Pierce was one of the greatest players that we’ve had in our game. And I think, you know, when you are a great player and you don’t get the attention that you feel like your game deserved, sometimes you’ve got to grab whatever attention where those straws are. And Paul believes he’s a better player than me. He should believe that. That’s why he was great. That’s not my argument, and I didn’t play the game to be better than Paul Pierce. I played the game the way I played it, and I made the sacrifices that I made. Everybody doesn’t want to sacrifice.
“I’ve been able to be a star. I’ve been able to be Robin. I’ve been able to be part of the Larry, Curly and Moe, like, whatever. I’ve been able to be successful and great in all those areas.
“It’s easy to say what you would do if you have a certain talent on your team, but you have to play with that talent. And that’s the hardest thing to do—to play with talent in different generations and different styles, which I was able to do.”
The debate between Wade and Pierce was ignited when the Boston Celtics legend said on a recent episode of the It Is What It Is podcast his “skills went unappreciated because I didn’t get to play with a lot of great players.”
Pierce specifically mentioned putting “Shaq(uille O’Neal) on my team” or “LeBron (James) and (Chris) Bosh with me,” referencing some of Wade’s teammates during his run with the Miami Heat.
Pierce did note he eventually got to play with Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but they were “past they prime” by the time both players were on the Celtics.
“Okay, if four years earlier you put me, Ray and KG together, you think we ain’t walking away with three chips?” Pierce added.
It’s certainly fair to say those Heat teams with Wade, James and Bosh had an easier time because those three were together all in the prime of their careers.
By the time O’Neal got to Miami for the 2004-05 season, he wasn’t in his prime. He was still a very good player who averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
The Heat didn’t win their first title until O’Neal’s second season. He put up career-lows at that time in scoring average (20.0) and rebounds (9.2).
Antoine Walker, one of Pierce’s former Celtics teammates, was actually Miami’s second-leading scorer in the 2006 NBA Finals with 13.8 points per game.
But the Heat won that series over the Dallas Mavericks because Wade had one of the best playoff performances in NBA history with 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest in six games. He scored at least 36 points in each of the final four games in that series.
Pierce “only” won one title during his career, but it was a memorable run with the 2007-08 Celtics in the first season with Garnett and Allen. He dropped 41 points in a Game 7 win over James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In the Finals against the Lakers, Pierce garnered MVP honors for averaging 21.8 points on 39.3 percent three-point shooting and 6.3 assists per game.
Even though that was the lone title that Celtics trio won, they weren’t exactly washed immediately afterward. They made it back to the Finals two years later, losing a rematch against the Lakers.
The end of the Pierce-Garnett-Allen iteration of the Celtics was the 2011-12 season. They lost to Wade and the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games. Allen signed with Miami as a free agent that summer.
Pierce and Garnett played one more season in Boston before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in June 2013 in a deal that proved critical to setting the Celtics up to eventually draft Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
There’s no reason for Pierce to appear defensive about his career accomplishments. He’s rightly regarded as one of the best players of his era and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.