50 Greatest Basketball Players Ever - 31 to 40 on our Best NBA Players list
Holla! To all of our endearing readers who've followed us through the course of our progress as a significant channel for basketball news, we've got news for you - A Top 50 list of the greatest players in basketball history!
We asked 8 of our writers to name their top 50 players of all time. Giving a weightage of 100 points to the #1 pick and 51 to the #50 pick, we arrived at a list that encompasses much of the storied history of the game of basketball - with all of these players having played out the vast majority of their careers in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In a weekly series, we will be releasing our ranks of the all-time greatest players of the game, as things stand at the end of the 2017-18 season. You can check out the countdown from #50 to #41 here. Here's the countdown from #40 up until #31!
#40 Paul Pierce
Per-game statistics: 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks
Shooting splits: 44.5% shooting from the field, 34.9% on 3-pointers, 80.6% on free throws
Accolades: NBA Champion and Finals MVP (2008), All-NBA Second Teamer (2009), 3-time All-NBA Third Teamer (2002, 2003, 2008), 10-time All-Star (2002-2006, 2008-2012), 3-point shootout champion (2010), Jersey #34 retired by the Celtics
Records: League leader in total points scored (2001-02), Celtics franchise leader in total steals and 3-pointers made
Paul 'The Truth' Pierce is one of the greatest players to ever don a Boston Celtics' jersey. Through 15 years of playing at the Garden for one of the biggest fanbases in the league, Pierce represented the Celtics in the most blameless manner possible - till the age of 35.
Selected by the Celtics with the 10th overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Pierce rose to prominence alongside Antoine Walker in the first couple of years of their careers. A starter from the get-go, he scored 19 or more points in 10 of his first 11 contests and finished the year with averages of 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
By his third season, his scoring average shot up to 25.3 points per game - but he was snubbed from All-Star game selection because of the Celtics not being able to make the playoffs. He remedied that in his second year, leading the Celtics to a Conference Finals appearance. His clutch performances in the playoffs that year led to him being heralded as 'The Truth' for the first time in his career.
But the franchise was never a true contender, and Pierce's best individual years were spent languishing on a bad roster. After injury plagued his 2006-07 season, when the Celtics finished with the second-worst record in the league (24-58), he demanded either a trade or a shakeup of their roster in order to win his first NBA title.
Trader Danny duly obliged by doing the latter and trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, resulting in the formation of the Celtics' Big Three. They rebounded to a league-best 66-16 record in the 2007-08 season and cantered to their first NBA title in 22 years with a 4-2 series win over the Lakers in the Finals.
They never won the NBA title again, but they did make the Finals in 2010 and took the Miami Big Three to 7 games in the 2012 Conference Finals. After the 2013 season, Ainge decided that it was time for the franchise to move on from its Big Three era and rebuild for sustained success later on - he traded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets.
Pierce spent a season each with the Nets and then the Wizards, before moving to the Clippers under old coach Doc Rivers and playing out the final 2 seasons of his career there.
Pierce's game aged quite well. He was never over-reliant on his athleticism, using his basketball IQ and jump shooting skill to get all the crucial buckets that the Celtics needed whenever he was able to. Through the length of his career, he was an above-average defender and was beaten out to All-Defensive teams because of the stature of purely defensive players during his prime years.
His list of honors ranks right up there with many top-50 players in the history of basketball. He was a 10-time All-Star. He was selected to 4 All-NBA teams. He has a championship during which he was crowned Finals MVP for his two-way play - people forget that his defense forced Kobe Bryant to miss 9 straight shots in game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
His jersey was raised to the rafters of the TD Garden earlier this year.