— masslivesports (@masslivesports) May 1, 2017
The Celtics have retired more numbers than any other team in American sports history. With 21 numbers in the rafters, the Celtics have taken more numbers out of circulation than the New York Yankees. The Yankees will tie the Celtics for most retired numbers when they officially retire number 2 later this month, but the Celtics will retake the lead when they officially take number 34 out of circulation.
Despite the bevy of numbers in the rafters, it’s been a while since the Celtics have retired a number. The last time was December 15, 2003 when they retired Cedric Maxwell’s number 31. Maxwell played for the C’s from 1977 through 1985. The most recent Celtics player to have his number retired is Robert Parish. The Chief last played for the C’s in 1994 and had his number retired January 18, 1998.
Though the Celtics could be accused of retiring the number of any player who stuck around for a few championships, that is not the case here. Paul Pierce started his Celtics career on February 5, 1999 with 19 points and 9 rebounds against the Toronto Raptors at the Fleet Center. It was the first game of the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 NBA season. In 15 seasons with the Celtics, he scored 24,021 points, second only to John Havlicek (26,395) in team history.
Including his time with the Clippers, Nets and Wizards, Pierce retires with 26,397 career points, 15th most NBA history and third among active players. While never one of the top players in the game during his career, he posted solid numbers even while most of spotlight was placed on the likes of Shaq, Kobe, Kevin Garnett and LeBron to name a few. Maybe that’s why it is a bit surprising to realize he’s an all-time top 20 scorer in league history.
The Celtics had some lean times during the ’90s and ’00s. Pierce was good soldier through it all, and teamed up with Garnett and Ray Allen to bring Boston its first championship since the Larry Bird Era in 2008. The 2008 Finals MVP, Pierce will now become the first Celtic since the Larry Bird Era to have his number retired. He is an incredibly worthy recipient of this honor, and now unquestionably the greatest Celtic of the post-Bird Era.