Sure, Michael Phelps is an obvious choice for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
But let’s be honest. If Boston had its own winner, wouldn’t it be Paul Pierce? Who else made a bigger breakthrough than him this year? (OK maybe Kevin Garnett, but he was already a superstar in the minds of most).
SI’s S.L. Price delivers the definitive PP story this week. Comprehensive and filled with enlightening anecdotes. Long-form stuff like this should be the magazine’s bread and butter.
Here’s an excerpt:
TWICE IN his life, men have left Paul Pierce in profound pain. It’s too glib to say that’s the reason he is a champion today, but being a victim has provided him a unique fuel. He’s also been given great ability, especially to probe other men for weaknesses and beat them in a very public way—victimizing them, no less—and the tricky part is figuring out which is more important, the ability or the fuel. Pierce doesn’t give a lot of clues. He’s about as easy to read as an Easter Island monument. “There can be a fire going on all around him,” [friend Jason] Crowe says, “and if you look at his face? You won’t know.”
But Pierce may not know either; pain can breed complications, a lifetime of inner conflict. That’s why, though stunned to see him so emotional, those in his camp understood. He is a basketball player, after all, whose ambivalence toward his sport can be summed up by the tattoo he commissioned two years ago for his left forearm, the one depicting a knife plunging into a basketball and framed by the words MY GIFT, MY CURSE. Pierce keeps that covered on the court with a sweatband, but if you’re looking—and he wants you to look—know that in what should be his season of supreme contentment, of peace at last, Pierce has a miniature version emblazoned on the side of his game sneakers, complete with the initials MG/MC. Whenever he hits the court, Pierce is literally a walking contradiction.
Read the whole thing here. Yes it’s lengthy, but it’s worth it.
The Pierce story is far from Price’s first gem.
This one, on former can’t-miss NBA center Stanley Roberts, was sad but great.
This one, on rotund college basketball coach Rick Majerus, will make you laugh and wince. It paints an accurate picture of a guy who once reportedly called Lance Allred, a former player of his who is 75 percent deaf, “a disgrace to cripples.”
This one, while devoid of its initial resonance due to the subject’s decline, is a vivid look at one of the brashest, craziest SOB’s in the NFL. I guess Jeremy Shockey still provokes a strong reaction, although from New York Giants fans, it now comes in the form of a Nelson Muntz “Ha-Ha!”
The Celtics look for their 10th straight win Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) Indiana, which beat Boston early last month, is in town. The C’s may be without Tony Allen. Brief note about that here.