While Ja Morant was getting roundly criticized for the video showing him holding up a gun while shirtless in a Denver-area club, Paul Pierce felt the need to play some defense.
The former Celtics star and Hall of Fame inductee acknowledged an incident from his own past in a March 5 tweet, noting that he chose to carry a firearm after being stabbed several times at a Boston nightspot: “I don’t care what y’all say about Ja I carried a gun after I was stabbed y’all don’t know what he going thru everyone got something to say until u really know what’s really going on in someone life when u black and rich u a target period”
In another post two days later, he added, “But we glorify and normalize all the rappers who do it and get paid from waiving Guns in rap videos making millions . I’m trying to understand make this make since , what crime did he commit”
Indeed, the NBA noted that “Colorado authorities did not find sufficient cause to charge Morant with a crime.” Morant was suspended eight games for “conduct detrimental to the league.”
Pierce doesn’t necessarily disagree with how the matter played out, but in the moment, he told Heavy Sports he wanted to slow things down.
“The thing was, I didn’t want people to make an early judgment,” he said in a Wednesday night conversation. “I think that’s a mistake we make in the social media era. We see things, and then it’s just early judgment. We’re quick to judge instead of let’s find out what’s really going on first. And that’s something I had to learn. I don’t like to see things and then react. I like to see things and just let it play out. Let me see what that really was. Like, I didn’t know if that was a lighter in his hand. You know, them gun lighters? I didn’t know.”
Pierce’s Stabbing in 2000 Changed his Lifestyle
While Morant is smiling in his video, Pierce was, too, as he walked into a room at a now-closed club in September of 2000. After turning to speak with two women who had noted his presence, he was attacked. The wounds nearly cost him his life. The situations are different, but there was enough to bring memories to the fore.
Pierce’s incident changed his life and his lifestyle.
“At that point, I didn’t go to the clubs or anything for a long time,” he told Heavy. “I didn’t want to put myself in that position again.”
And though he had personal security and additional observation from local law enforcement, he was advised, as well, to carry a weapon.
“My license was to carry on me, but I wasn’t flashing it and doing all that,” Pierce said. “I went and applied and got my license. You know, me and Lynchie (former Celtics director of security Phil Lynch) used to go to the gun range.
“I was getting death threats before the case came up. One time I was sitting in a restaurant and they came up and gave me the cordless phone from the restaurant. He was like, ‘Somebody’s calling for you.’ I was like, ‘What?’ It was a threat. That’s what I was dealing with.”
‘I Bottled it In’
Though he rededicated himself to basketball and took it as a badge of honor that he recovered from his wounds and played in all 82 games that season and next, Pierce admitted it was a difficult period emotionally as well as physically. And the psychological scars aren’t hard to recall.
“It was tough, because I bottled it in for a long time,” he said. “There was a lot of times I’d just go to the gym at 10 or 11 at night. Can’t sleep, 1 o’clock in the morning. We had 24-hour access to our facility, so I’d go there. The police would follow me. I had 24-hour protection for like a good year or so. (Then-Celtic coach) Rick Pitino demanded it.”
Pierce wonders how the factors would be different were he going through all that in the present era.
“It HAS gotten more dangerous, and you know why? Because we’ve become more accessible,” he said. “It feels like there are people who just know where you are. But we make ourselves more accessible through social media. Whenever you leave the house, everybody got a camera and, like, oh, he’s here at the grocery store, or, oh, he’s here walking his dog. It’s more dangerous than ever.”