Robert Parish is one of my favorite players ever. I grew up screaming "CHIEF!!" every time Parish hit one of his patented turnaround jumpers or jammed home a pick-and-roll pass from Larry Bird. I loved his poise, his unselfishness, and his aura of stoic nobility. I also loved it when he sucker-punched Bill Laimbeer in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

Yeah, I probably shouldn't love that, but I do. If anybody ever had it coming, it was Laimbeer.

All that said, I'm starting to think Parish has lost his nut a little. And not just because he recently said: "I think Shaq will definitely bring a defensive presence along with Garnett. He's going to cause a lot of havoc defensively."

I'll concede that was pretty crazy -- Shaq causing defensive havok? In what universe? -- but here's what's eat-your-grandmother's-wig crazy: Parish thinks Paul Pierce is a better offensive player than Larry Bird:

"I think Paul Pierce, the way he manufactures points is the best player the Celtics have seen thus far. That's saying a lot because you are talking about John Havlicek, [who] was the best offensive player that the Celtics had, the way he manufactures points. But Paul Pierce has them all beat. He’s got the Sam Joneses, the (Don) Nelsons, the Tommy Heinsohns, Jones, Havlicek, (Larry) Bird, (Kevin) McHale, myself. Paul Pierce is the best offensive player the Celtics have seen thus far."
That statement is stunning. No, really. I'm stunned. Parish played with Larry Bird. And I'm going to go ahead and assumed he's watched Pierce play at least a few times.

How could Parish be so wrong? Then again, Chief once had two ounces of wacky weed shipped directly to his house via FedEx. So I guess you could say his decision-making has, at times, been a wee bit questionable.

But still, I'm not sure what Parish could have possibly smoked enough of to make him think that Pierce is a better offensive player than Bird. Don't get me wrong. Pierce is pretty darn good. He can nail the three, has a solid mid-range game, and perfected that sweet move where he spins right and pulls up for a jumper. Paul also has a nice head fake, can get to the basket, and either finish or draw fouls.

Of course, Bird could do all of that and more. He could shoot either either hand. He could post up. He had a hook shot going righty or lefty. Heck, Bird once got so bored with being so awesome he tried to spend an entire game shooting left-handed (and finished with 47 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists...the night after going off for 35/15/11 in Seattle).

I mean, have you ever seen Pierce do something like this:


Or hit buzzer beaters like this:


And how 'bout the passing:


To be fair, Pierce has hit some buzzer-beaters of his own and has generated his fair share of highlights.

But c'mon...really?

Don't take my word for it, though. If my progressive series of Larry Bird tattoos is any indication, I can't think clearly when it comes to The Legend. So let's consult the stats.

Note: Bird played 897 career games. Pierce has played 884 so far. Also, where appropriate, I have included the all-time rank next to the stat.

Career Stats: Raw Numbers
Larry Bird
PPG: 24.3 (16)
FPG: .496
3P%: 376 (92)
FTP: 88.6 (10)
APG: 6.3 (41)
ORB: 2.0

Paul Pierce
PPG: 22.5 (29)
FPG: .445
3P%: .369
FTP: .802
APG: 3.8
ORB: 1.0
As you can see, the raw numbers all favor Larry Legend. Some other random facts:

Bird ranked in the top 10 in PPG six times. Pierce has done it five times.

Bird shot 50 percent or better five times and barely missed 50 percent two other times (.496 in 1985-86 and .492 in 1983-84). Pierce has never shot better than .472. Bird's career worst FGP of .454 (which happened during his injury-ravaged 1990-91 season) eclipsed six of Pierce's seasons and equalled his 2000-01 campaign.

Bird ranked in the top 10 in three-point percentage seven times and shot better than 40 percent six times. Pierce has never been a top 10 three-point shooter and has hit 40 percent or better three times. It's true that there are more and better three-point marksmen today than there were in the 1980s, but this shows how Bird measured up to his contemporaries.

Bird ranked in the top 10 in free throw percentage 11 times and led the league four times. Pierce has never ranked in the top 10 in this category.

Pierce has 19 career games in which he scored 40 or more points.

Bird had 27 games with 40-plus points from 1986-87 through 1991-92. That included one six-game season (1988-89) and his final two injury-ravaged seasons (1990-91 and 1991-92). It also doesn't include any of his three MVP seasons. (Man, I wish Basketball-Reference would get box scores going back to before Bird's career.)

Bird ranks fifth all-time with 59 career triple-doubles. Pierce has six.

But hey, maybe the raw numbers lie. Let's take a look at the advanced stats that are supposed to take various confounders (pace, era, quality of teammates) into account.

Career Stats: Advanced
Larry Bird
TS%: .564 (95)
eFG%: .514 (94)
ORB%: 5.9
AST%: 24.7
TOV%: 12.7
ORtg: 115 (50)
OWS: 86.8 (28)

Paul Pierce
TS%: .565 (91)
eFG%: .495
ORB%: 3.1
AST%: 19.3
TOV%: 13.1
ORtg: 109
OWS: 68.3 (48)
Pierce has a very slight edge in True Shooting Percentage...and that's it. All the other advanced stats go Larry's way. Some other random facts:

Bird has three top 10 finishes in Offensive Rating. Pierce has none.

Bird has six top 10 finishes in Offensive Win Shares, including a first place finish in 1984-85. Pierce's best finish was 10th in 2004-05.

Look, Pierce is one of the great scorers of his era. Bird is one of the great scorers of all-time. The only reasonable conclusion I can come to -- and Zach Lowe of CelticsHub agrees -- is that The Legend was clearly a better offensive player than The Truth.

Sorry, Chief.

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29 Comments:
OpenID thesos said...
I'm guessing Parish lost a bet to Paul Pierce. or is experience dementia.

Blogger Dan B. said...
This is "going to cause a lot of havoc defensively?" ...Okay then.

And by the way, that Larry Bird passing video is hypnotic. Quality ball movement is such an underrated aspect of entertaining basketball.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Nice post, albeit indepth and maybe defensive or excessive.

Also, Rabbi and LeBrooonn sittin' in a tree...

Blogger Sorbo said...
Can this just be the Larry Bird blog? I love watching me some Larry highlights, especially that shot over McDaniels.

Paul Pierce is fine, he can do all the things Larry did, just to a lesser degree.

With so many people trying to find the next Jordan or Magic, why don't we look for the next Bird? Of today's players, only Durant remotely reminds me of the Legend, in demeanor and playing style.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I'm guessing Parish lost a bet to Paul Pierce. or is experience dementia.

Whichever it is, Tommy Heinsohn must be in the same boat, because he's been spouting this crap for a while now.

Personally, I think people want to find something that uniquely separates Pierce from the many, many other Celtics legends. And, really, the only thing he has going for him over anybody else (potentially) is scoring. So it's like, "Let's say he's the best scorer so he can get the recognition he deserves."

And he certainly deserves to be known as one of the best offensive players in franchise history. But THE best? Eh.

This is "going to cause a lot of havoc defensively?" ...Okay then.

Is...is Shaq grabbing his man region?

Nice post, albeit indepth and maybe defensive or excessive.

Did you really think I was going to let an opportunity to blab about Larry Bird sail by. Nay, good sir, nay.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Bawful - Delonte West fucked Bird's mom.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Delonte West fucked Bird's mom.

True. But then Bird fucked Delonte's mom...only he did it more times and much more efficiently. In the butt.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
the next larry bird was Dirk Nowitzki. Just look at the way they shoot and the of balance shots they take. Their form is nearly identical and the way they awkwardly lumber towards the hoop and drive. Their post up fades aways are similar. Seriously watching Larry Bird highlights made me think I was watching Dirk.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
"Tuesday night James appeared to be unhappy about something and implied on his Twitter account he was taking down names. 'Don't think for one min that I haven't been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone!,' James wrote in a 7:45 p.m. tweet on his King James account."

Shit. LeBron is going to take us down, people.

Anonymous Heretic said...
@Michael hsu

They both also had awkward facial hair and terrible haircuts.

Blogger chris said...
Bawful: I think we will have hit the big time if King Crab complains on Twitter about us slagging his "go-to move" repeatedly on this site.

If so, I demand that we start posting in Comic Sans.

Anonymous Matt said...
LeBron taking mental notes of people who are taking shots at him?

I guess he's trying harder to make himself more like Jordan than we thought.

Anonymous UpA said...
"Is...is Shaq grabbing his man region?" Uggh

Was that necesessary to point out? I didn't saw it the first time.

What's been seen can't be unseen!

Anonymous Alex said...
How is it possible that Larry had a better free throw percentage, three point percentage, and overall percentage, but Pierce has a better true shooting percentage?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
How is it possible that Larry had a better free throw percentage, three point percentage, and overall percentage, but Pierce has a better true shooting percentage?

TS% takes FTAs into account, whereas eFG% does not. And PP averaged more FTAs than Bird (7.7 to 5.0)...which, in all honesty, is something I should have mentioned in favor of Pierce in the post.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@Hsu, Dirk was close, I'm not sure Bird ever had a psycho wife episode that probably derailed his confidence and his career.

Maybe the Chief is secretly racist?

I have no other explanation.

Blogger chris said...
Sorbo: Bird DID have this episode that derailed the green and white in '85.

Anonymous Matt said...
@RPP

Parish agrees with Isaih and Rodman.

Anonymous Jai said...
Man, that passing video was great. I'd forgotten what true hustle and serious handles looked like.

Granted, I've been watching the Knicks for the past decade so I also forgot what real basketball looked like...

Anonymous bizarro said...
bawful, you forgot to mention that Bird played his entire career with a smashed finger in his shooting hand. he destroyed it months before his first season. Imagine what career shooting % he would have had he had a healthy shooting hand.
well the truth has been stabbed like crazy in the back and the neck, but that doesn't compare. a few stabs never hurt anybody.

Anonymous alley said...
Granted, the behind-the-backboard shot was awesome, but didn't Bird basically turn it over on that play?

Blogger BadDave said...
mmmmmm.

*smokes pipe*

Blogger starang said...
Paul Pierce is pathetic and a disgrace to basketball everywhere. He is the biggest offensive flopper there is. His 1 move is head down to the basket, and do that stupid little flopper move of throwing his head back hoping for a call. Its pathetic, and I wish the NBA would do something about it. I have a hard time even watching him.

Blogger Sorbo said...
@Chris - I thought about that, but Larry came back the next year and killed it again, helping the Celts winn the '86 title, then played in the Finals again in '87. What did Dirk do the year after the Finals loss...he let Golden State, in its only playoff appearance the last 16 years, oust his 67-win team in the first round.

Dirk had a personal problem that seemed to drag down his psyche and his career. Bird just punched a guy in the face, broke a finger, and kept winning.

OpenID thesos said...
starang is apparently the other end of the Paul Pierce love/hate spectrum.

Blogger Dylan Murphy said...
Obviously Parish has never seen Shaq defend the pick and roll. Or should I say, do nothing on the pick and roll.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Maybe it's just me but the most memorable moment in Pierce's career was getting carried off in a wheelchair in Game 1 of the 08 Finals. That's gonna work against him in any debate over whether he's better than Bird was.

Blogger Promoman said...
Paul Pierce is far more gifted than athletically than Bird ever was and maybe a better defender, but Larry's still the best small forward who ever lived. LeBron James has a chance of surpassing him but until he wins Larry's got the crown on lock.

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