Paul Pierce’s exit from ESPN came after he broadcast a video featuring strippers, which is not a big deal at all unless you work for Disney or a subsidiary. (Which might one day be all of us!)
In a new (and excellent) Sports Illustrated profile from Chris Mannix, though, Pierce comes across as someone who didn’t really care that he wasn’t able to stay at the network; he never apologized, for one thing. And for another, he wasn’t really happy with ESPN’s content strategy, especially when it came to focusing on a particular superstar:
ESPN didn’t ask for an apology. The relationship between Pierce and the network had become strained over the past two years. Pierce hated the travel. Network executives didn’t think he was working hard enough. The video, industry sources told Sports Illustrated, was the last straw.
“I was done with them, anyway,” says Pierce between pulls of lemon mint. “It wasn’t a great fit. There’s a lot of stuff over there that you can’t say. And you have to talk about LeBron all the time.”
On one hand, obviously ESPN is going to focus on LeBron James constantly. His games get aired nationally as often as possible. He’s one of the best players of all time. There’s no avoiding him if you’re an NBA analyst.
On the other hand, Pierce’s on-court rivalry with LeBron is well-documented. They went at each other for years in the East, during both the regular season and playoffs. That he’d tire of discussing LeBron minutiae before everyone else did shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Pierce also didn’t apologize ahead of the Hall of Fame vote (he made it in), rightly noting that compared to other members of the Hall, what he’d done on tape was relatively harmless:
“Come on, I didn’t do anything illegal,” says Pierce. “These motherf—–s in the Hall of Fame, some did [cocaine], f—ing battery. What the f— did I do? I was just having a good time. All the people coming after me, half you motherf—–s do the same s—. You’re just hiding it. And you all are married while you’re doing it. I’m divorced. I’m retired. I’m having fun.”
And if Hall voters had held it against him? “Listen,” says Pierce, “if I didn’t make it with this class, it would be the biggest stiff job in Hall of Fame history.”
Pierce will be enshrined this Saturday, September 11th, with the rest of the 2021 class.