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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.