NBA legends Paul Pierce and Baron Davis recently teamed up with BENGAY to surprise a group of men who arrived to what they thought would be a casual pickup game of basketball. Little did they know, they would soon have their pro-basketball dreams come true, complete with uniforms, a roaring crowd and coaches for the day, Paul Pierce and Baron Davis.
As part of the BENGAY “Sore Winners” campaign, Pierce spoke with The Step Back by phone about life after basketball.
The Step Back: Keeping things in the “sore winners” arena, can you talk about what basketball has been like for you know that you’re retired? Do you still play regularly? What are those games like?
Paul Pierce: I’ve only played a couple of times. Not much basketball, been playing my whole life. I mean I still workout, but not much basketball.
The Step Back: What do those workouts look like?
Paul Pierce: Just regular workouts at the gym. Treadmill work. Stairmaster. Long hikes. Just not as intense as I did when I was training for an NBA season. Now, just trying to maintain some level of fitness and staying in shape, but not at the same level I did when I was playing.
The Step Back: Do you miss playing regularly?
Paul Pierce: You know, I really don’t miss it, man. I kind of had the opportunity to choose when it was over for me. There’s a lot of guys who sometimes they just don’t get that call no more and are forced to retire or do something different. I’m really satisfied with my playing career. Been playing the game my whole life. Nineteen years in the NBA. So I don’t even have like a real itch. I love coaching other kids and teaching them the game, but as far as that desire, I think it’s not there any more.
The Step Back: Do you have any lingering physical things that bother you from your playing days? What’s sore at the end of a workout?
Paul Pierce: You know, I never really had any major surgeries. Now, I workout at my own pace and it’s just typical soreness that you get from riding a bike or going for hikes. You just get that soreness, especially since I don’t workout every day. And that’s why, at this stage, I thought BENGAY was a perfect partner for that joint pain I get from these long hikes, these long bike rides and lifting weights. It’s just the perfect product for me to eliminate all of that.
The Step Back: What were some of the things you did to take care of your body at the end of your career? How was that different from the kinds of things you were doing at the beginning of your career?
Paul Pierce: I definitely just paid attention to my recovery, that was the biggest part of taking care of myself. Paying attention to what I eat, getting rest, ice baths, massages, things of that nature. I just was lucky not to have any major injuries but I did a good job of putting myself in the best position to succeed and have a long playing career. It’s different when you’re young, you just kind of learn on the fly and it’s constantly ‘go, go, go.’ As you get older, that wear-and-tear kicks in and you have to have remedies. BENGAY was always a part of that for me in the locker room.
The Step Back: So much of what you were able to accomplish in your career was because of skill, footwork, execution. Do you think those parts of your game helped protect your body and extend your career?
Paul Pierce: Without a doubt. I didn’t rely on athleticism. When I was younger, I was more athletic but as I got older, that was what it was about — having a high basketball IQ, understanding angles, playing my footwork, out-thinking my opponent. That definitely allowed me to have a long playing career. You have so many guys who just rely on their athleticism and then as they get older and that athleticism is not there anymore, now what are you going to do? You have to be able to have some skill, shoot the ball, play different angles.
The Step Back: Is that the advice you’d give to young players coming into the league now? To accentuate that skill part of your game as early as you can to extend your career?
Paul Pierce: Yeah, you always gotta work on your game. When you look at these great athletes as they get older they’re not as athletic, you gotta find new ways to contribute. If you’re not as fast or can’t jump as high anymore, it’s about skill work. Everybody can’t be LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter, these great athletes. It’s a skill game. You can have longevity if you just study the game and work on your footwork and things of that nature.
The Step Back: There are a few guys from your era still hanging on. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on guys like Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and how they’ve been able to keep their careers going? Is it the skill aspect you were talking about? Taking care of their bodies? Or is there something else special about this group?
Paul Pierce: I mean, it’s a combination of those things and then it’s them not really having any major injuries. Those guys have had longevity because they’re very good at what they do. Obviously, they were once great athletes. But they’re just smarter players and really skilled players who shoot the ball really well. They’ll always be a place for them in the game because of that. And they just take care of their bodies and have gotten lucky with injuries. I’m happy for them. I just didn’t want to be the oldest guy in the league.
The Step Back: Any thoughts about this incredible run the Celtics have been on in the playoffs?
Paul Pierce: I’ve been really thrown back because I just didn’t expect it once the injury to Kyrie happened, and the injury to Gordon Hayward. Once Kyrie went down I just thought they’d maybe be lucky to get out of the first round and now they’re here in the Conference Finals.
These young kids are just growing up and becoming super stars at such a young age. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier are just good beyond their years. And it’s fun to watch. This team is going to be very scary. Once they get really healthy next year it could be even scarier. But who knows, they could win the championship this year. They’re well coached, they’re deep, guys understand their roles. It’s just fun to watch.