If you don’t believe in miracles, you probably haven’t been stabbed 11 times and lived to remember it. Eighteen years ago, Paul Pierce thought he was dying. His 11 stab wounds, one seven inches deep into his sternum, shocked the then 22 year old who was not yet a star. For a 24 hour period there was concern for Paul Pierce. Some reports said his wounds were mostly superficial. Others said they were devastating. When he had to have surgery, it was sobering, even for Pierce. He asked the surgeon if he was going to die.
If there had been social media in September of 2000, it might have exploded and then assigned blame. Here he was, Paul Pierce, his third year in the league, on Stuart Street with teammate Tony Battie, in a nightclub’s pool room, at a private event. That would have been enough for social media to come up with their own theory instead of waiting for the facts.
The facts. Paul Pierce was attacked by a group of men he didn’t know. Sliding Pierce into the back of his car, Battie rushed him to the hospital. Pierce had to have surgery and at first there was a lot of concern that the wounds may have penetrated his heart tissue. It didn’t. The Celtics coach was Rick Pitino who had to weather one crises after another. Now he had to deal with fallout of Pierce at the Buzz Club for a private event and having tragedy befall him.
But you had to be there in 2000. Pierce was blamed for his own injuries as if he stabbed himself. The same people who today say shut up and dribble back then accused Pierce of gang affiliation, bad decision making, hip hop and Allen Iverson having something to do with it and overall immorality.
Pierce wasn’t responsible for his own near death but he was responsible for not dying. He wore a leather jacket. The thickness of the leather protected him so the wounds were not as deep as they could have been or should have been. The nightclub wished the situation had not happened. They were cited for allowing an assault and battery on the premises. They had repeated assaults prior to what happened to Pierce at their venue.
Training camp had yet to start and California native PIerce (he was actually born in Oakland not Los Angeles) was in town for a golf tournament hosted by Red Auerbach. When it was clear that PIerce was going to recover, there was armchair analysis about the intersectionality of hip-hop and NBA players decision making. This was the Allen Iverson influence that made a lot of the white customers uncomfortable. Everyone was relieved that Pierce survived but for some it was a cautionary tale.
There would be testimony by Pierce at the trial. Pierce said the whole thing was a set-up. A group of men were mad that Pierce was talking to a few ladies that the attackers knew. The stabber, William Ragland, was found guilty and his sentence was 7-10 years in prison after a 21-25 year sentence for killing a man after he fired a gunshot into a crowd of people. Trevor Watson was given one year in jail for kicking Pierce while the attack was ongoing. 7 years ago, Watson was sentenced to 30 years in jail. The judge called him a terrorist for stabbing a DEA informant. The informant, according to Watson, had snitched on him about alleged coke dealing.
At the trial, Ragland pleaded innocent and was vehement he didn’t stab Pierce. He apologized to Pierce but said he didn’t stab him and the real assailants were out on the street.
After the stabbing, Pierce played 82 games, seemingly unaffected. He averaged 25 points for the first time in his career, shot 38% from three, had a PER of 22.3. He scored 40 points or more 8 times, had a 15 rebound game once, played 40 or more minutes 35 times. But the Celtics only won 36 games and were in the lottery in 2001. They selected Joe Johnson who they traded mid-season for Rodney Rogers.