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It wasn’t supposed to be like this when Inglewood native Paul Pierce was growing up in the backdrop of the Lakers Showtime era and beginning honing the skill that has since made him a favorite Celtic and Lakers hater.
“I was a fan and I was a little kid doing what kids do,” Pierce explained as he return home for the middle games of the NBA Finals this week.
The once pudgy Pierce was crawling out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get into the Inglewood High School gymnasium and then go to classes all musty and sweaty, but it was such a routine that enabled him to become one of the elite players on the Southern California basketball circuit back then.
Before he was a star for Inglewood, Pierce played for Thaddeus McGrew’s K-Swiss club team and was a teammate of another NBA star Baron Davis who has yet to taste the success in the NBA Finals that Pierce is currently enjoying with his Celtics leading the Lakers.
However, for the past two summers Davis and Pierce have reunited to sponsor and host a “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a celebrity all-star weekend event in Los Angeles culminating with a celebrity and NBA all-star basketball game double header.
The traditional event was passed along to Davis and Pierce from Lakers icon Magic Johnson who hosted the event for 20 years. Sparks star center Lisa Leslie who attended Morningside High School in Inglewood is also a host of the event.
Last year during the basketball games at the Galen Center, Pierce took the microphone and asked the audience if they were Celtics fans only to receive a cascade of boos.
He was in a unusually good mood because the Celtics had acquired Ray Allen from Seattle and Kevin Garnett from Minnesota at a time when Kobe Bryant was requesting to be traded from the Lakers.
The Lakers would subsequently recover however and land a couple of key players in their own right in Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol, ultimately setting the wheels in motion for what has become a dream NBA Finals match-up.
Often Pierce is characterized by newspapers and other media outlets as being more than just a native of Inglewood and associated with its urban gang culture, as if urban gang culture in the region in which he grew up is the only thing there.
For the most part, Pierce was a model citizen at Inglewood High, performing under the watchful eye of veteran coach Pat Roy who helped nurture him into a responsible citizen in the community and off the basketball court.
Pierce has out performed MVP Kobe Bryant to give the hated Celtics a lead in the series as it resumed in Los Angeles this week.
It’s not ironic that of all the teams that Pierce has played against during his illustrious 11-year career that he has enjoyed the most success against the Lakers, averaging 27 points per game against them.
The Celtics and Pierce fans received a scare in the opening game of the series when he went down awkwardly and had to be carried off the court and wheel chaired into the locker-room.
With all of the hope of a championship season sapped out of the arena in Boston, Pierce made a triumph return, skipping down the aisle and back onto the court to lead the Celtics to a game on victory.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson made slight of Pierce’s return from knee injury, which inspired Pierce to lead the Celtics to another victory in Game Two in Boston.
Now that the series has shifted back to Los Angeles here and the Lakers will host the next two games at the Staples Center, it’s not Pierce’s injury that has drawn attention but instead, the Lakers’ plight as they now have to win all of the games at Staples to have a chance to win the title.
They will not get any sympathy from Pierce as he will continue to try to bury the team that he grew up loving and admiring so much.
It’s an irony that he can not forget since being inspired by the winning tradition of the Lakers, but right now it’s his business to revitalize the winning tradition of the Celtics, a team he use to hate.