Longevity, loyalty, and clutch execution. That’s what makes a legend. You think of Chicago when someone talks about Jordan; not Washington. You think of San Fransisco when the name Jerry Rice arises, but you ignore those years in Oakland. John Smoltz will always be an Atlanta Brave to me. Ray Bourque is a Bruin…not an Avalanche..
There is no doubt in my mind that both David Ortiz and Paul Pierce are “Boston” athletes. Nobody thinks about Ortiz’s Minnesota years, and Paul Pierce’s legacy will never be the wily ole veteran on the Brooklyn Nets or Washington Wizards. But there lies a question…who is the better athlete?
I am working on a Top 50 Boston Athletes of All Time post, and of course Paul and David are close to each other on the list. These are the two athletes that define my generation. We grew up watching both players on really bad teams, and both players on championship teams. They were both staples of my childhood…and now I am going to try to figure out who is the bigger legend.
-3 World Series Rings
-401 HR in a Red Sox uniform
-.455 BA, .576 OBP in his 3 World Series
-1 WS MVP
-All-time leader in MLB history for home runs (408), runs batted in (RBIs) (1,330) and hits (1,864) by a DH.
*1 failed PED test in 2003
– 1 NBA Championship
-10X All Star
-4 time All NBA
-2 Finals Appearances
-1 NBA Finals MVP
-1 of 3 Celtics (Havlicek, Bird) with 20,000 points for the Celts
-Celtics All time leader in Three Point Field Goals made and steals, 2nd in points scored, 5th in assists, third in games played
-Averaged 20 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists in the playoffs
-15 Seasons in Celtic Green
-Stabbed 11 times and had bottle broken over head before 2000-2001 seasons…went on to start all 82 games
On the Court/Field
-Both have put up ridiculous numbers in their tenures in Boston, and both have performed in the playoffs. Paul always leaves it all on the court. Sometimes David will give up on a play, or even a game. #34 would never do that. David has more rings, but has also had better teammates. Paul was by himself for 10 years before the GM finally gave him some help. However, David has had so many clutch hits and series, that there is no way the Sox could have won without him. Yet..whenever the Celts needed a big shot, Pierce was always the go to guy. Both have their names in the record books next to some historic Boston legends…but because of the rings, the postseason performance, and the consistency over a long period of time, I have to give the on court/field edge to..
Off the Court/Field
-The MLB and NBA force their players to perform community outreach. This category is more about their attitude in the locker room and their presence as a leader. Paul Pierce was loved by every teammate he ever had. The same can not be said about Big Papi. David can be selfish, arrogant, stubborn, and he’s a huge diva. Paul was always a team first guy. David yells at the scorekeeper when his hit is ruled an error. Paul couldn’t care less about stats. But, it would be a sin for me to not acknowledge David Ortiz’s role in the recovery of Boston after the marathon bombings. He took a leadership role, and stuck with it. His speech became famous, but he also constantly visited the survivors in the hospital, and made their recovery a lot more cheerful. Yet, because of the selflessness Paul displayed in his 15 years in Boston, being a leader for terrible teams and for great teams, the off the court/field winner is..
-The truth and Big Papi will always be loved in Boston. I’m just trying to find out who Boston loves the most. In order to do that, we need to look at everything, including things that have nothing to do with their athletic performance. Paul Pierce was a true Celtic. He never flaked out and demanded a trade when he was on a bad team. He put 100% effort in every game. When he was stabbed, he could have packed his bags and left the next day and no one would have blamed him. But he’s a warrior and wanted to win a championship in the city that drafted him. Paul Pierce is as tough and as loyal as they come. David Ortiz, on the other hand, may not always give it his all, but he always plays the game with a smile on his face. He’s a joy to watch, to listen to, and to root for. He brought 3 rings in 10 years to a team that hadn’t won 1 in 86 years. Lifelong Sox fans say they can never repay Ortiz for what he has brought to this city and this team. However, their will always be that one question mark with him…did he use steroids. To this day he denies it. He has no clue how he failed that test. All I know is that many people in this area don’t believe him. How could we? He went from a nobody to one of the games premier power hitters in 1 year. This smudge on his record will haunt him all the way to the Hall of Fame voting. His failed drug test has to be mentioned whenever his numbers are compared to other all time greats. Paul Pierce and David Ortiz are beloved in this city, but Big Papi will always have that asterisk…and for that reason…the intagible edge goes to..
Well there you have it. After comparing their resumes, their postseason careers, their leadership abilities, and their intangibles, Paul Pierce appears to be the better, more beloved, more legendary Boston athlete. Extremely hard to pick one over the other..so if you disagree please share! Comment below or write your own take and it could be published on TMC!