I’m going to be honest here: that is not a terrible take, because a legitimate argument can be made for James not being top five on a list that also includes names such as Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, etc.
It’s tough to pick a top five from that group.
But maybe if Pierce hadn’t had so many horrendous takes and predictions before this, people wouldn’t be making such of a big deal out of his latest proclamation.
Here are the five worst takes of Paul Pierce’s tenure as an analyst.
5. Saying the Rockets would blow out the Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals
The Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant to a calf injury in Game 5 of their 2019 second-round Western Conference playoff series against the Houston Rockets, which had many people thinking the Rockets would win Game 6.
But Paul Pierce took things a step further, saying that Houston would beat Golden State by “15-plus” in that game.
The Warriors ended up beating the Rockets by five — on Houston’s home floor, no less — and advancing to the Western Conference Finals behind a combined 70 points from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
So, yeah, not only did the Rockets not blow out the Dubs, but they lost an elimination game at home.
4. Calling the 2019 Celtics-Bucks second-round series “over” after Game 1
The Boston Celtics thumped the Milwaukee Bucks by 22 points in Game 1 of their second-round Eastern Conference playoff series last spring, prompting Paul Pierce to say that it was already “over” for the Bucks.
To be fair, things did look pretty bleak for Milwaukee at that time, as Boston had just swept the Indiana Pacers and looked pretty damn good in the series opener against the Bucks.
But then Milwaukee won each of the next four games to beat a largely hapless C’s team in five games, summoning Kyrie Irving’s eventual exit out of Beantown (he was clearly checked out in that series).
Calling a series over after Game 1 is always silly. Doing it on national television is even worse.
3. Saying the Bucks had the Raptors after Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals
Man, this take was even worse than the Bucks-Celtics one.
Milwaukee beat the Toronto Raptors in each of the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals last May to take a rather commanding 2-0 lead heading to Canada.
Afterward, Paul Pierce took to Twitter to say that the “Bucks got this.”
There are a couple of reasons why this was really bad.
First of all, Pierce had just proclaimed the Bucks dead in the water two weeks prior, only to see Milwaukee backdoor sweep Boston.
Second, Pierce said that the Raptors were going to win the championship and completely abandoned them after two games.
Of course, Toronto rallied to win four straight much like the Bucks did to the Celtics, making it to the NBA Finals in the process. In Pierce’s defense, he picked the Raptors to beat the Warriors and was right, as Toronto did, in fact, win the title.
But the flip-flopping here was just horrible and full of irony.
2. Saying he had a better career than Dwyane Wade
Look: Paul Pierce was a fantastic NBA player. He was a perennial All-Star. He was a champion. He is a future Hall of Famer. He is one of the best small forwards ever.
But Pierce went a bit too far last year when he said he had a better career than Dwyane Wade.
Pierce defended his stance by saying that he would have won five or six titles had he played with Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron, but his statement still fell on deaf ears.
Wade won three championships during his NBA tenure, and in his first title run, he put forth one of the greatest Finals performances in history in leading the Heat back from a 2-0 deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.
Pierce was great, and he made have had a smoother offensive game than Wade. But when it comes to measuring their careers, Wade was clearly superior.
1. Saying that Duke could have beaten the 2018-19 Cavaliers
Following LeBron James’ departure during the summer of 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in pretty bad shape, much like when LeBron left the first time around in 2010.
But Paul Pierce thought the Cavaliers — a team full of NBA players — were so awful that they would have lost to the Zion Williamson-led Duke Blue Devils, who ended up losing to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
Pierce is far from the only guy who has compared really talented NCAA teams to really bad NBA teams, but that doesn’t make his declaration any less terrible.
I’m not sure there has ever been a college team that could beat an NBA team. Many people — including professional players themselves, apparently — tend to forget that NBA players get paid to play basketball for a living. They aren’t going to lose to a bunch of college kids.