BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce used to walk onto the court at TD Garden and imagine seeing his number hanging from the rafters.
“The Truth” doesn’t have to dream about that day anymore.
The Celtics retired Pierce’s No. 34 on Sunday following the Celtics’ 121-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He became the 23rd person in franchise history to have his number or name enshrined by the Celtics organization.
The honor capped a 19-year career for Pierce, who was named NBA Finals MVP in 2008 when the Celtics captured their 17th championship.
After the game, Pierce, clad in a green plaid blazer, entered the court via the newly named Paul Pierce Players’ Tunnel. The team said the tunnel, featuring Pierce’s signature, will serve as a reminder to current and future players of what “being a Celtic” means.
When his jersey was raised, Pierce was serenaded with chants of “Thank You, Paul Pierce!”
“This is just a special day,” Pierce said afterward. “If I never make the Hall of Fame or anything, to go up in the rafters as a retired number for the Celtics — that’s just enough. That’s enough for me. … When you’re forever with the Celtics, you’re forever.”
The 40-year-old Pierce retired after last season. He tops the Celtics’ all-time lists in 3-pointers made (1,823), free throws (6,434) and steals (1,583).
He is Boston’s second all-time leading scorer with 24,021 points, trailing only John Havlicek. His 15 seasons also trail only Havlicek’s 16 for the longest stint with the team.
Current Celtics players gathered to watch the ceremony, and legends including Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell and Tom “Satch” Sanders sat on the court.
Pierce credited his mother, Lorraine Hosey, and brothers Jamal and Steve Hosey, for inspiring him.
“It starts at home. It starts where you come from,” Pierce said.
He later cried when acknowledging his wife, Julie, and their three children.
Pierce sat next to the 2008 championship trophy as the team showered him with tributes.
Along with having his number retired, Pierce also received a framed replica of the banner that his No. 34 will be added to, a Rolex watch, a piece of the Celtics’ parquet floor and a stained-glass backboard adorned with his number.
A weekend of festivities in honor of Pierce began with a private dinner hosted by the Celtics on Saturday night. Parish attended along with several of Pierce’s former teammates, including Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Brian Scalabrine and Leon Powe.
Pierce said the honors reminded him of how much he sacrificed during his career. He said being a Celtic was “meant to be.”
During the game, the Celtics showed video segments that highlighted Pierce’s basketball journey. The clips went as far back as his Inglewood High School days and included interviews with friends, family and former teammates.
There were also surprise recorded tributes from NBA greats Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. Pierce smiled as Bryant said in his message that Pierce made “all the Celtics legends proud.”
Pierce sat courtside with his family and Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and teammates Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo — all part of the 2008 title run — sat together nearby.
Rivers told the crowd about conversations he and Pierce used to have about the day his number would be retired. He said the 2008 championship solidified Pierce’s status as an all-time great in Boston.
“I just think it always cements it. When you win a title you become a main man, and that made Paul,” Rivers said. “He would have had this night regardless of winning the title, but winning the title makes this day pretty special.”
A touching moment came near the end of Pierce’s speech when his son, Prince, placed a No. 34 cap atop the 2008 trophy.
“I did the trifecta,” Pierce said. “I left a legacy. I had my high school jersey retired. My college jersey retired. But there’s no greater honor than having your NBA jersey retired for the Boston Celtics.”
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