Celtics great Pierce savors jersey retirement

The Boston Celtics honored Paul Pierce on Sunday by doing more than just retiring his uniform number.

They also dubbed the entryway from the locker room to the playing floor the "Paul Pierce Players' Tunnel" in a ceremony at TD Garden in Boston.

Pierce was celebrated during and after the Celtics' 121-99 loss to the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

"This is a special day," Pierce said. "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. Everything else is icing on the cake."

Pierce's No. 34 is the 22nd number retired by the Celtics, and the ceremony attracted an impressive array of former Boston players, including ex-teammates Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Antoine Walker.

Current Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers also was present to honor the player who joined with Garnett and Ray Allen to lead the 2008 Celtics to the NBA title. Rivers coached that team.

Rivers said that Pierce having his number retired by the Celtics ranked among the greatest tributes in sports.

"Maybe the Lakers, Montreal in hockey somewhere, but there's no other place in sports where you would want your number retired," Rivers said. "In basketball, I don't think there's any other place you could choose where you would want your number retired. It would be with Boston. ... It means something.

"Before I got here I didn't realize it. You always hear about the Celtics lore, but you didn't get it if you weren't in it. Then when you get in it and see guys like Bill Russell come around, and John Havlicek. Tommy Heinsohn meant the most to me because he was very special for me. It's not about them. It really isn't. It's all about being a Celtic. There's no organization, maybe in sports, that has that type of loyalty, and it started with Red (Auerbach)."

Pierce choked up while thanking his family.

"I got emotional when I talked about my kids because, for them to just sit here, they didn't get a chance to see most of my career," Pierce said. "My daughter was born April of the year we won it, my first daughter, so they didn't really get a chance. For them just to see their dad and how appreciated he was in the city and to be able to leave a legacy to be able to come back years down the line and say, 'That's my dad. My dad's number is up there,' that means a lot to me."

As for seeing his number join those of legends such as Russell, Havlicek, Bob Cousy and Larry Bird, Pierce said, "I was just trying to hold it together and I just knew that when I first saw the banner lift and I saw it straight and I saw my number there, it was like, man, all the years I walked into the gym every day, I looked up and I saw empty spots and I saw all the other jersey numbers.

"Now I'm on there, now I'm on there, and that's forever. It's just like, 'Wow I'm there,' and now I can say that's the finish. I left a legacy."

A first-round pick out of Kansas in 1998, Pierce played the first 15 of his 19 NBA seasons with the Celtics. In 1,102 games for Boston, he averaged 21.8 points, six rebounds and 3.9 assists.

He ranks fifth on the NBA's all-time list for made 3-pointers (2,143) and 15th in points.