Courtesy of Kansas Athletics
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Former Kansas great Paul Pierce was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2021 class in a ceremony held at the MassMutual Center, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Saturday evening. Pierce was one of 16 individuals to be inducted into this year’s class.
“First and foremost, I am humbled and honored to be here tonight,” said Pierce who was presented by longtime friend and NBA teammate Kevin Garnett. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be hall of famer.”
In his speech, Pierce talked about his journey to the Hall of Fame, thanking relatives, coaches and close friends who helped him along the way.
“To Roy Williams, my college coach, thank you for teaching me the game of basketball,” Pierce said of Kansas’ seventh all-time coach. “Coming in as a McDonald’s All-American to Kansas, I thought I knew everything. Come to find out, I didn’t know much. I didn’t even know how to come off a down screen.
“Thank you for always being honest with me,” Pierce continued about Williams. “Every coach that came in promised me a starting spot. You promised me an education. You said ‘I don’t know if you are going to start’ and that’s why I trusted you.”
Among the inductees were the ninth-winningest coach in NBA history Rick Adelman, two-time NBA champion and 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Bosh, NBA Finals MVP and 10-time NBA All-Star Pierce, the first Black NBA head coach Bill Russell, four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Champion Ben Wallace, five-time NBA All-Star and NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Webber, two-time NCAA national champion Villanova coach Jay Wright, seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith and seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson.
Distinguished committees focused on preserving all areas from the game also selected seven directly elected enshrinees: Val Ackerman, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Howard Garfinkel from the Contributor Committee, Clarence “Fats” Jenkins from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Toni Kukoc from the International Committee, Bob Dandridge from the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore from the Women’s Veterans Committee.
The storied playing career of Pierce concluded when he announced his retirement from the NBA following the 2017-18 season. Affectionately known as “The Truth,” Pierce played 19 seasons in the NBA, which was the longest-tenured Jayhawk in the NBA of all-time.
After being selected 10th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1998 NBA Draft following his junior season at KU, Pierce went on to become a 10-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection, NBA champion (2008) and NBA Finals MVP (2008). With 26,397 career points, he ranks 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
As a Jayhawk, Pierce was a 1998 Consensus All-America First Team selection. In just three seasons at Kansas, Pierce ranks 10th on the KU career scoring list with 1,768 points and also ranks in the top 20 in rebounds and steals. He was most outstanding player in both the 1997 and 1998 Big 12 Tournaments and his jersey was officially retired from KU in during the 2003 season.
The Class of 2021 Enshrinement festivities began at Mohegan Sun on Friday, September 10 with the Enshrinement Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala. The Class of 2021 then journeyed to Springfield, Massachusetts, for Saturday’s formal induction ceremony at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and MassMutual Center.
Pierce marks the 21st time a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee has University of Kansas ties and the first since current head coach Bill Self was inducted in 2017.