Even in his prime, Paul Pierce was known for having something of an “old man game.” However, in his recently released book, Kobe Bryant really got at the root of what the term was referring.
“He really understood how to use his body,” Bryant wrote in “Mamba Mentality,” in which he calls the Celtics guard one of the “toughest” players he ever had to guard.
“He would use his heft to shield you, and he would use his size to shoot over you,” the retired Lakers star wrote.
Pierce did generally have about 20 to 30 pounds on Bryant during their NBA careers. But “heft?”
“What do you think of that?” Rachel Nichols asked Thursday, after reading Pierce the passage on ESPN’s “The Jump.”
“That’s what I’m talking about Kob, finally some respect around here,” Pierce exclaimed.
“He knew what it was, finally,” he continued, as they rolled highlight clips from the retired 41-year-old’s playing days. “Look, I was just stronger than him. Look, I put that body on him, come on now. Imma put that shoulder into him, put that hip on him, get the layup. Come on man, I was just too strong for these guys. I was just too strong. I was too strong. I couldn’t jump over them, so I just go right through them.”
Nichols asked Pierce, who played between 235 and 245 pounds with the Celtics, if any coaches ever tried to get him to change his body type.
“What works, works,” he replied. “This works.”
In head-to-head games, Bryant did outscore, out-rebound, and out-assist Pierce, winning 20 of their 39 regular season and playoff matchups.
“He had an all-around game,” Pierce said. “When I started guarding Kobe, his first step was tremendous. I mean, he was so athletic. All game, I just wanted him to shoot jumpers. It was just like, if his jumper’s rolling, there was nothing you could do, because his first step — he was so athletic, so quick. I mean, he had every skill in the book, I mean, from midrange to threes to fadeaways. I mean, he’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Jordan.”
Plus, Pierce added, “he might shoot 41 times on you.”