Every Christmas Eve, my family and I sit down and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the timeless Christmas movie released in 1947. Every Christmas Eve — without fail – I claim it’s an overrated movie, then get suckered into its heart-warming story. By the end of the movie, I’m without a doubt holding back tears, or attempting to secretly wipe them away from my eyes. I can’t let my family detect me tearing up… it’s an overrated movie, remember?
Anyways, I will now admit it’s one of the best movies ever made, and then hope beyond hope my family doesn’t read this post. After all, next year I’ll have to make my claim that it’s an overrated movie; it’s become a Christmas tradition, like opening presents, singing carols, or drinking egg nog. (Of course, an hour or so later I’ll be weeping like Adam Morrison in the NCAA tournament; yet another King family Christmas tradition.)
If you don’t know the premise of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, it’s this: (Note: I promise there is a point to this. Bear with me.) A businessman named George Bailey runs an exceedingly moral Building and Loan and successfully battles the local tyrant (Mr. Potter) who wants to take over the town and run it down, in the process almost single-handedly saving his town from the clutches of despair. But then he runs into enormous bad luck; his uncle Billy accidentally gives $8,000 to Mr. Potter, and the bank is suddenly short money and in trouble with the police. As George thinks suicidal thoughts, he prays for some help, and it comes… in the form of his guardian angel Clarence.
Long story short, Clarence takes George into an alternate reality and shows him what his life would have been like if he were never born, essentially proving how many lives George has touched.
So why the hell am I talking about It’s a “Wonderful Life”? I’m supposed to be discussing the Celtics, aren’t I?
And I will, by putting Paul Pierce into the shoes of George Bailey and showing him what the Celtics would have been like had he never been born….
Cue the smoke, bring on Clarence, and let’s take Pierce back to the 1998 NBA Draft…
As the future Pierce watches and thinks to himself, “I’m about to get drafted,” David Stern comes to the podium to announce the 10th pick of the NBA Draft:
“And with the 10th pick of the 1998 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select… Bonzi Wells.”
The crowd murmurs for awhile, wondering 1) who the hell Bonzi Wells is [after all, he went to Ball State, and wasn't exactly a known commodity], and 2) how the Celtics didn’t use that pick to scoop up Michael Doleac. Future Pierce, meanwhile, is puzzled.
“But I was drafted with that pick. Not Bonzi Wells.”
“Keep watching,” said Clarence. “It gets worse.”
Future Pierce is whisked away to the following year, to a casino in Las Vegas, where Antoine Walker and Bonzi Wells are playing craps.
Pierce walks up to Antoine, and yells, “‘Toine, my man! What’s going on?”
Walker looks at him questioningly, before deciding he doesn’t know who the hell Pierce is.
“It’s me, ‘Toine! Paul. The Truth. We went to the conference finals together, ‘Toine! We beat the Nets in one of the most memorable comebacks ever. We were the second-best team in the East, ‘Toine, and it was almost all because of you and me!”
Walker shakes his head, looks at Wells and starts to laugh. “The Celtics, in the conference finals? This guy must be wild. I’ve never seen him before in my life, and he’s telling me we beat the Nets in one of the most memorable comebacks ever. Ha! Shit, we just went through a 5-45 season. (Editor’s note: the lockout.) We started Eric Riley at center half the time. (Editor’s note: Eric Riley is a real person, and he started 11 games for the ’98-’99 Celtics.) Our backcourt was Kenny Anderson and Ron Mercer, and we had Vitaly Potapenko in the starting lineup too, damnit. Without a real scoring threat, we couldn’t even stay in games, never mind win them. And this guy’s trying to talk about the Conference Finals? Shit.”
Pierce takes another look at Walker and realizes, Wow, he’s pretty damn fat. He wasn’t that fat back then, was he? How’d he get so big?
Then he takes one more look back at Walker and Wells, who are double-fisting cheeseburgers and losing money at a steady rate. Oh….
Fast forward to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals…
Future Pierce has seen enough to realize he won’t be playing in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. But what he doesn’t realize is that the Detroit Pistons, starting Chucky Atkins, Ben Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Clifford Robinson and Michael Curry, would be in the Finals.
“Michael Curry?” Pierce asks. “Starting in the Eastern Conference Finals?”
“I know,” responds Clarence. “It surprised me, too. He averaged a whopping four points per game, and it’s not like he was surrounded by a ton of scorers to carry the load. I would have you keep watching, but I can’t handle watching basketball this bad. You see, this series would have set basketball back a decade… if anyone in the country had actually been interested in watching Michael Curry battle Keith Van Horn. Without your comeback, your heart, and your passion, this was probably the worst Conference Finals series in NBA history.”
A flabbergasted Future Pierce is transported through time back into 2009, Christmas Day. Pierce opens his eyes to see a room full of people wearing Celtics gear and watching the Crhistmas Day games on t.v., only the Celtics aren’t who he thought they would be…
Pierce looks to Clarence in shock: “Gerald Green? Sebastian Telfair? Brian Scalabrine? Where are KG and Ray Allen?”
“Without you, neither of those guys wanted to play for Boston. And, besides, the GM wouldn’t have wanted them… what’s the point of one star player around a roster full of scrubs? The Celtics are committed to rebuilding.”
“But with Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfiar?” Pierce wondered. “And who’s that 50-year old seven-footer walking around on crutches?”
“Why, that’s no 50-year old,” explained Clarence. “That’s Greg Oden. The Celtics traded away their first-round draft picks for the next five years to get him, and he’s been hurt pretty much ever since.”
Wow, thought Pierce. I never thought I was this valuable to the Celtics. Just look at what would have happened to their organization if I’d never been born.
“See Paul,” injected Clarence. ”You’re the richest man in town. Remember, no man is a failure who has a ring.”
“But Clarence,” Pierce said. “One last question… What in the world is Vinny Del Negro doing in here?”
“When Doc Rivers was fired, the Celtics hired him as their coach.”