In an interview with The Northeast Ohio Media Group on May 17, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James credits Washington Wizards veteran Paul Pierce for his growth as an NBA superstar.
LeBron James is crediting Paul Pierce for his growth as an NBA superstar.
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The Atlanta Hawks eliminated Pierce's Washington Wizards last week and it's anybody's guess if the 17-year NBA veteran will return for an 18th season. Should he step down, James told The Northeast Ohio Media Group's Chris Haynes on May 17 he's indebted to Pierce for what he has done to help him develop as a player:
"Obviously if he says he's not quite sure about next year, but he's Double-P, man. I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had. But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete.
"I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do.
"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time. I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."
Haynes stresses Michael Jordan's biggest obstacle before he won his NBA titles was the Detroit Pistons. For James, it's Pierce and the team the latter used to play for, the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics eliminated James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs in 2008 and 2010. During that span, Haynes says Pierce "played an integral part in pushing and motivating James to work even harder at honing his craft."
When James was with the Miami Heat, he and his teammates made life miserable for Pierce's teams: James and Co. eliminated Pierce's Celtics in 2011 and 2011 and his Nets in 2013, per The Notheast Ohio Media Group.
As a parting shot, James told Haynes he predicts Pierce will ba first-ballot Hall of Famer:
"It's great to have him in this league as far as the competition and what he's done not only for the teams that he's played for, but for himself. He's probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His numbers speak for itself. He's a big-time player."
For his part, Pierce, who has a $6 million player option for 2015-16, told The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore after the Wizards' 94-91 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday he's not even sure if he'll play again:
"Truthfully, what was going on through my mind is, I don't have too much of these efforts left, if any. These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.
"I don't even know if I'm going to play basketball anymore.
"We always say it's a game of inches, split seconds. So many things come into play.
"It's probably going to be the hardest thing I ever have to do, is put the game down. But I know that time is coming one day.
"I'm never going to have no regrets, whether I hang it up now or later. I know that people who have been around me all these years know that Paul Pierce came every day, left it out there every day.
"I know I left everything out there."
The 37-year-old Pierce has averaged 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 1,250 career regular-season games with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards, per ESPN stats.
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