The Celtics’ 121-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday couldn’t stop “The Truth” from taking the stage.
Players, fans and members of the Celtics franchise hung around after the game's final buzzer for a ceremony honoring former Celtics player Paul Pierce and retiring his jersey.
“From the first time I walked into the practice facility, I saw the numbers the Celtics had retired. Every day I walked into practice or the arena and saw these numbers. They were inspirational,” said Pierce, who wore No. 34. "I would think to myself, ‘One day I want to be up there.’”
Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Celtics, leading the team to the 2008 NBA Championship title. He was also named the Finals MVP for that season. Some of his fellow teammates from 2008 attended the ceremony, including Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Antoine Walker, as well as coach Doc Rivers.
“We talked about this day with the players in the locker room,” Rivers said during the ceremony. “You were a brilliant player, you were a clutch player, Paul. And more importantly, you know what you are? You’re a Celtic, and you’re a champion."
There were several video tributes to Pierce sprinkled throughout the night that included highlights from his career and congratulatory remarks from Pierce’s family, former coaches and friends, as well as NBA legends Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Lifelong Celtics and Paul Pierce fans were among the crowd as well, wearing jerseys and T-shirts bearing No. 34.
“[He’s] the greatest Celtic, in my eyes, of all time,” said Kinard Dozier, who says he has been Celtics fan all his life. “I played basketball my whole entire life, all throughout high school, all through college, my game was mimicked upon whatever he did. Whatever he was working on, I wanted to work on. He’s always been special to me and my family.”
“Paul Pierce is my hero. I’ve been watching him almost my whole life,” said Kaela Feliz. “His attitude is the best. He’s always loved Boston. He would’ve stayed with us his whole career if he could’ve. He is Boston to me.”
Pierce is the 23rd player to have his jersey number or name retired by the Celtics, and the first in 15 years, since the Celtics retired Cedric Maxwell’s No. 31 jersey in 2003.