Paul Pierce was openly unhappy when he was picked "only" 10th in the 1999 NBA draft. He had misgivings as he entered this, his 10th, season with basketball's Boston Celtics.
Chances are today he's eminently satisfied with that pair of 10s even though once he was hoping to be traded to a "contender."
Paul's struggle was gigantic but he finally reached the NBA finals and earned not only a championship ring but most valuable player honors. His jersey hangs in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters and he's now considered the "new face" of the Celtics. He's earned it all, but perhaps the most sterling validation of his stature came after Tuesday's title game: A grizzled man who's done even more for the Boston club hugged Pierce in a warm and fuzzy fashion not characteristic of Bill Russell.
We hear a lot about Boston's 17 NBA titles and we need to be reminded that the incomparable Russell helped produce 11 of them, two as player-coach. Bill's had his ins and outs with the Celtics operation since he retired in 1969 but he's remained fiercely proud of the record he and coach Red Auerbach generated. Russell suffers no fools and can spot a phony from here to Afghanistan. The fact he has embraced Pierce and is so clearly delighted by what he has done speaks volumes.
Back to Russell, he sparked 11 Celtic titles in a 13-year span. He is heralded as the only guy since Kansas University's Clyde Lovellette to play on college title teams ('55 and '56), an Olympic championship club ('56) and NBA winners. But Lovellette, who played with Russell on the 1963-64 Celtic title teams, had done it all earlier, plus one.
Lovellette was KU's mainstay in the '52 college and Olympic quests, then was the first to score a triple with the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1954. Throw in a fourth: Eminence with a Phillips Petroleum team that won the '53 AAU title when AAU ball was better than what the NBA offered.
So Kansas claims two guys with two NBA rings each, Clyde and Jo Jo White, and now is beaming about Pierce.
As for Pierce's jersey on the fieldhouse wall, it'll soon be joined by that of Mario Chalmers since Mario was voted most valuable player of the 2008 NCAA Final Four. Lovellette, B.H. Born, Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning also have that on their resumes.
Chalmers has gone pro and Sherron Collins has to worry about avoiding debtors' prison. If Collins achieves acceptable standing as a Jayhawk, he and sophomore Cole Aldrich will be the only returnees who saw action in the '08 title tussle with Memphis. The NBA claimed Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush, senioritis vamoosed Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun.
With Chalmers and Collins, KU would have had the best set of guards in the country. Aldrich is a fixture but now Collins could be in limbo until he clears the air. Even so, where does coach Bill Self go from there? Lots of prospects but so little experience. KU could be good but not as threatening as it once looked.
As for Collins, that judge is not likely to declare "king's ex" and say the $75,000-or-more payout to Sherron's alleged target was just a joke to get attention. There are some serious issues to be resolved before we focus primarily on basketball.