Briliant Content Marketing…From 1995

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It’s become really difficult to compete in content marketing because, well, everyone is doing it.

Let’s back up for a second. What exactly is content marketing? One example that quickly comes to mind in the software world is Basecamp's blog Signal Versus Noise. They write about running a business in hopes that they can help aspiring entrepreneurs, who will in turn decide to use their product. It’s a great blog (and an awesome marketing channel for Basecamp) and has been imitated by tons of software companies in the last few years.

"Signal Versus Noise" is becoming an increasingly appropriate name for Basecamp’s blog, because it’s become so tough to get people’s attention. What passed as good content in 2010 won’t fly in 2014. It’s not that businesses aren’t trying - if anything, the problem is that everyone is trying. Everyone has read five "Ten Ways To Get More Facebook Likes" sort of posts. They’re getting old. People want stories. There’s even a company - Contently - that is focusing on “telling great stories” for brands, and they’re hiring journalists to do it.

I was going through some old files the other day and stumbled upon something my dad did that I wanted to share here. Quick back story: my grandfather (my dad’s father-in-law) ran a family company, Lawrence Plate Glass, that had been around since 1918. They had a product called ClearVue that they used in-house to clean the glass and sell in the shop. My grandfather hired my dad, who soon took notice of ClearVue, a glass cleaner that had a small but passionate fan base (they literally got fan mail from customers.) He spun ClearVue off into its own company, and the product was soon on the shelves in Walmart, K-Mart, Target, etc. (If you want to read more about ClearVue’s story, here’s a piece that Inc. did on the company years ago.)

Anyway, my dad knew how tough it’d be to compete with the Windexes of the world, so he had to come up with some interesting, offbeat ideas to win marketshare. People generally grab the same glass cleaner over and over, so earning loyalty was important. One thing he did was publish “The ClearVue Sun,” a short, (mostly satirical) quarterly newsletter about the business and product. Now, if ClearVue were around today, it’d be incredibly easy and free to digitally publish something like this. Back then, though, you had to hire a printer, organize the addresses, mail out the newsletters, etc. They had thousands of subscribers. Seriously, think about that - how weird is it that this glass cleaner product/company inspired enough of a positive feeling within people that they subscribed to a mailed newsletter? It kind of blows my mind.

I’ve included a few photos of one edition. It’s pretty funny. If you click the photo, you should be able to read the text. (I wrote a little more below, too.)

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In 1995, this newsletter really stood out. As far as I know, there were no other glass cleaners - in fact, there were probably no other household products - doing anything like this. Today, every company has a blog. Business blog posts like the aforementioned, “Ten Ways To Get More Likes On Facebook” are the new direct mailers that go straight into people’s trash. If businesses want their content to be seen and cared about, they should focus on quality content that fits their talents, their business, and their customer base. “The ClearVue Sun” is proof that no matter what sort of product you sell (seriously…glass cleaner!) there are ways to tell stories that your customers will love and share.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please follow me on Twitter @adamokane.

Twitter Is A Newspaper, They Just Don’t Know It Yet

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As of last week, I own a piece of Twitter, Inc. I probably have a smaller stake than just about any other shareholder, but that’s okay.

When word came out that their user growth is slowing, I started to think about the future of Twitter,

Their biggest challenge is teaching “normal people” how valuable Twitter can be to them. They’ve had a hard time shaking the “I don’t care what people are having for lunch” perception that people have about Twitter.

I think the newspaper is the perfect analog comparison to help Twitter better market and develop their product.

Twitter would let users create sections, instead of having a single timeline. I think mine would probably break down into sections like “business,” “sports,” “friends,” and “celebrities.” The people you follow would be sorted into these sections. Users could name the sections. There could be a “favorites” section that would act like the front page of a newspaper, filled with your closest friends and favorite people. On mobile, users would swipe to get the different sections. On the web, Twitter would have to be a little more creative with their interface.

Organizing people you follow on social media isn’t a revolutionary thing. Twitter has lists, although I think their execution has been poor. Google+ has circles. Facebook has lists, too. Setting those up feels like work, though. I see Twitter sections succeeding by making it suggested/automatic. So, if I follow @bijan, Twitter will be able to tell that he probably belongs in my “business” section, based on how similar he is to other people I have in there. Of course, you’d be able to manually edit the sections, too. Also, Twitter’s Discover feature would be baked into each individual section, helping you keep them filled with new, interesting people.

Twitter-as-a-newspaper would help it “click” with normal folks. If I want to see what’s happening in the NBA, I don’t want to scroll through an entire timeline of tweets. I want to swipe to my NBA section. If the morning newspaper came in 1995 and you wanted to read about the Sox, you would flip right to the sports page. You wouldn’t read the entire paper front-to-back.

Onboarding would be so much easier. Twitter could ask, “which of these are you interested in?” and have topics like the NFL, movies, politics, etc. You’d click them, and it’d suggest users right away to help you populate those sections.

Twitter has a forward-thinking product team. It wouldn’t surprise me if they thought of something like this and decided against it or tabled it for now. I have no doubt that they’ve considered of all sorts of possibilities. Still, I think it’s worth discussing.

Twitter users know that It’s the best media consumption product there is. Twitter sections would help the rest of the world realize it.

P.S. Twitter should change the “favorite” button to “like.” People understand “like.” The “favorite” button is so undefined…there’s no telling what it’s supposed to be used for. That was fine for Twitter in 2008, but not in 2014. In addition to the change to “like”, I propose that Twitter buy Pocket, one of my favorite products on the web. There would be a “pocket” button on each tweet, and clicking it would save the tweet for later reading - perfect for tweets with links that you don’t have time to click. Pocket would remain a separate app and continue to function as a link-saving service for the rest of the web, too, which would give Twitter a strong foothold in real-time content and longer form pieces.

Quick, someone send this to @dickc before Zuck throws $100m at Pocket.

This Is What The NBA Should Look Like In 2024

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As much as I enjoy the NBA, I think there are steps that could be taken to dramatically grow the league domestically and internationally. I saw this piece by Howard Beck discussing NBA insiders’ ideas on the future of the league and I was blown away. Some of it is in line with thoughts I’ve had, and other bits (that I’ve included in my list and expanded on) were totally new to me. You should give it a read.

Anyway, if I were in charge of the NBA…

  • The basketball season would be split. There would be 52 regular season NBA games. Playoff series would be best of 5. Players would be more rested. There would be fewer injuries. The season wouldn’t drag on - every game would matter. Then, after the season is over, there would be a European extension of the NBA - 20 or 30 teams playing a 30 game schedule. The European NBA season would end with a single-elimination tournament. It’d be an NBA venture owned by NBA team owners. Players could opt to play one or both seasons. A player like Kevin Garnett could retire from the NBA but then play the shorter European schedule for a few months. It’d be incredibly compelling entertainment and provide more options for players.
  • There wouldn’t be any guaranteed contracts or a maximum salary. There are horrible contracts weighing down a bunch of teams in the league. The reason these teams are “tanking” isn’t only so they can get a good draft pick - it’s because there isn’t any other viable option. There’s too much dead weight on their payroll. Eliminating guaranteed contracts would make players less complacent and give more teams a chance to compete. Removing the maximum salary would actually distribute the talent more evenly - you wouldn’t find LeBron, Bosh, and Wade playing on the same team, because those guys could be making huge money separately. In that sense, it’d be good for smaller market teams.
  • The NBA season would start the Wednesday after the Superbowl. The country is focused on football from September-early February. That’s just the way it is. The NBA could capture the nation’s attention in February, have the All-Star break in April, start the playoffs at the end of May, and begin the Finals on the night of July 4th. The European extension would start in August and go through October. Training camp starts just after the new year.
  • Players in the NBA Draft would need to be at least two years removed from high school. The NCAA is generally a good environment for players to improve their fundamentals, which is important in today’s AAU-centric basketball world. Maybe there would even be some rivalries hatched in the college game that would translate to the pros.
  • Another step that I would take to prevent tanking is to include teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs in the draft lottery. The worst team in the league will get 22 ping pong balls, and the team with the best record that lost in the first round of the playoffs will get 1. Teams that advanced to the second round of the playoffs will get picks 23-30. If this happened, you’d see teams in the 9-12 seed range fighting harder for a playoff spot. I firmly believe that for the league to be healthy, teams need to be fighting for a playoff spot as hard as NFL teams do. That’s not happening in today’s NBA. This plan helps fix that. I attached an image below to illustrate how it could shake out.

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The NBA is a unique league. It’s more star-driven than the NFL, MLB, and NHL. Fans are closer to the action than in any other sport. Silver and his team need to focus on making the game more competitive, compelling, and relevant in America, and then bring it to the rest of the world. 

Let’s fix what’s broken with the NBA, improve other areas, then take the game in earnest to the rest of the world. David Falk had an awesome quote in Beck’s article:

"I think to make the game truly global, you have to do more than show it on TV. You need to what they say in the military—you need to have boots on the ground." 

The long-term model for the NBA isn’t the NFL. It’s a rockstar, like Bruce Springsteen. He can sell out Madison Square Garden and a week later be in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans in Europe. He attracts worldwide attention because he’s a world-class entertainer. There are monetizing opportunities at every corner. That’s what the NBA can be.

It’s a huge, huge opportunity, and luckily, I think Adam Silver realizes it.

Hey Vine: I Don’t Want “Celebrities,” I Want My Friends

I’ve noticed a big shift in the videos I see when I open up Vine and it worries me.

Let me back up for a minute and say that I’m a huge fan of the Vine app. I think it’s elegant, fast, and easy to use. I signed up the first day Vine was released and have been watching it pretty closely.

In the early days of the app, I thought that its biggest competitor was Instagram. Obviously Vine doesn’t let you take photos. They weren’t similar in that sense. Where they were similar is the occasions that people would use them. For the last few years, Instagram has been the go-to app for when you’re having a good time and want to document the moment. That’s proven to be hugely valuable for them (and Facebook.) For a minute, it looked like Vine was going to be an even better app for those fun times in our lives.

Friends trickled into the service (it was tough to find them at times, due to the lack of Facebook integration) and we saw people post random, fun clips. They weren’t professional quality, but they weren’t supposed to be. Some of us tried to intentionally set up clips to be funny, which was another way to use the service. It was a lot of fun.

I don’t know about you, but these days, that’s not what Vine looks like. I scroll through my feed and it’s a mess of about thirty accounts revining each other. They’re posting choreographed, preconceived clips that often aren’t even filmed with a mobile device. NONE of my friends post Vines anymore.

I’m a big believer in letting users dictate how a service matures. Twitter didn’t anticipate (or even like) people using hashtags, and now they’re deeply incorporated into their product. Maybe this is what people want for Vine.

With that said, the service now seems entirely self-promotional instead of self-expressive. Every other video is someone telling us to follow another account, probably doing their friend a favor. I’m sick of it. It’s boring.

Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe this was an intentional strategy from Vine. They may see Vine as a mini YouTube - a sort of entertainment destination rather than a social service. Another place where 5% of the users create 90% of the content. And hey, who could knock anything that resembles YouTube?

I wanted to bring this up because nobody is talking about it. Maybe I’ll change my mind…but right now, I’m disappointed to see a service that used to feature fun, random glimpses into people’s lives turn into a contrived, glossy entertainment app.

***PS - there are a lot of talented Vine “celebrities” (including Marcus Johns, pictured above) with awesome videos…I just think Vine should be more than that.

Hey LeBron, Shut Up: Why Ray’s Boston Departure Was Way Different

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LeBron James (who else?) made some comments yesterday comparing the departure of Ray Allen from the Celtics in 2012 to those of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers this past summer. Here’s what he said:

"I think the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston, and now these guys are leaving Boston. I think it’s OK; I didn’t mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they’re leaving.

"That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers, former Celtics coach], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family."

Well, LeBron knows about defecting better than anyone…but I don’t blame him for his comments. He’s defending his teammate, and for all we know, a reporter asked him a question directly about the situation. It’s tough to tell sometimes with these quotes.

However, the notion that Pierce and Garnett left under the same - or even similar - circumstances as Allen is totally wrong.

The Celtics had an emotional seven game battle with the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Despite injuries, they came close to knocking Miami out. Those teams hated eachother - there’s no other way to explain it. There has never been any love lost between Pierce/Garnett/Rondo and James/Wade (Example 1, example 2, example 3), and that series definitely reflected it.

The moment the buzzer sounded, however, Allen beelined for LeBron and Wade to shake their hands, as if he was trying out for the team.

That offseason, Allen accepted a deal to go to the Heat for half the money the Celtics were offering him…to come off the bench for Miami.

Here’s what I think upset Allen about his time in Boston, in no particular order:

  • Being mentioned in trade rumors (this happens to most players, by the way)
  • Being replaced by Avery Bradley in the starting lineup (which is when the season was turned around)
  • Rajon Rondo (okay, I kind of get this one)

Now, Allen had every right in the world to leave the Celtics for the Heat. He is completely free to do what he believes is best for him and his family.

With that said, as fans, we’re also free to critique those decisions.

It’s not like Ray didn’t have a ring. He could’ve signed with 28 other teams and the Celtics and their fans would’ve been cool. The Heat, though? The Celtics were preparing to make another run at them. KG said that “[he doesn’t] have Ray’s number anymore,” when asked about Allen in Miami. Pierce and Doc Rivers made similar comments.

Those guys hated Allen’s decision, and didn’t seem to respect it very much. Was there anyone closer to the situation than Pierce and Garnett? They were good friends with Ray, were fellow all-stars, played with him for five years, and knew each other as teenagers. They would have every reason to be empathetic, unless they really felt wronged.

Fast forward a year. The Celtics had an injury-plagued season in which they lost Rajon Rondo midway through the year. Pierce and Garnett shouldered the load valiantly, but didn’t have much left in the tank in the playoffs after logging heavy regular season minutes.

After the season ended, Doc Rivers left for the Clippers. I believe Garnett and Pierce wanted a few things:

  • To finish as Celtics
  • To compete for a championship
  • To play together
  • To feel wanted
  • To play for Doc Rivers

When Ainge approached them about the Brooklyn trade, they realized it satisfied a few of their desires. They could play together for a team that really wanted them and compete for a championship. So, they begrudgingly signed off on the trade.

I believe at this point, on October 18th, now that they’ve had some time to let it sink in, Pierce and KG are relatively happy to be Brooklyn Nets. When the trade happened though, they (particularly Pierce) didn’t look too happy about being there. Compare that with when Allen and Garnett arrived in Boston.

To put this simply, Pierce and Garnett were traded after a relatively unsuccessful, down season. It wasn’t entirely against their will (Garnett had to waive his no-trade clause), but as far as I can tell, they still would’ve liked to stay Celtics. Ray Allen, on the other hand, left after a season in which the Celtics were a quarter away from advancing to the NBA Finals, only to go to their biggest rivals - who they had just lost to - for half the money the Celtics were offering him.

Can you see the difference?

Paul Pierce can. As he said last night, “I left Boston?”

I think Garnett’s very KG-like response to LeBron’s critcism was even better, though:

"Tell LeBron to worry about Miami. It has nothing to do with Celtic business."

One Sunday In October

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What a day. I wasn’t planning on my next blog post being about sports, but I can’t not talk about yesterday.

Ten years ago, I was 13, and the same two guys who were leading comebacks by hitting game-winning homeruns and throwing game-winning touchdowns for my favorite teams are still doing that today. That’s pretty cool. As a side note, the same guy who was hitting game-winning shots in 2003 was still doing it in 2013, but not anymore. I’ll miss you, Paul Pierce…anyway…

(By the way…as much as I’m singing Brady’s praises in this post, the defense needs a ton of credit for getting consecutive stops on two straight possessions to get the ball back in Brady’s hands. The same goes for the Sox supporting cast, too.)

What a pass, what a catch, what a drive, what a moment. Tom Brady was due for a Tom Brady moment and the 5-0 Saints happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Game over. Brady’s back.

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Almost four hours later, just as Brady was due, the Red Sox were bound to get a break or two. When Dustin Pedroia singled to right and the third base coach held Ellsbury at third, we all knew it was because David Ortiz was stepping to the plate. There was a tension in the air. We all considered it…it was impossible not to. What if Ortiz hit one? After Brady’s magic earlier in the night? It was greedy to suggest out loud. It was asking for too much. Not that we had more than a couple minutes to think about it — Ortiz hit it out on the first pitch, despite Tori Hunter’s best efforts.

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In sports, one minute you can be dead, and the next minute you’re on top of the world. It happens so fast…and I love it. I had an exchange with a BleacherReport writer named Fred Katz - who, to be fair, was talking about the media rather than the fans’ emotional swing. Still, my point to him stands. The sports media try to reflect the feelings of fans…and the feeling last night was exuberant.

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I’m not ready to say Boston sports fans are spoiled. Sure, some of us may be too used to the success that we’ve had the privilege of enjoying. But for most of us, the joy from last night was so pure, it’s tough to label it as behavior from spoiled fans. If anything, the reaction proves that we’re not spoiled.

When the Sox won, our Facebooks and Twitters lit up. Our phones buzzed with texts and emails. It was Sunday night, a time when we’re usually winding down and moaning about Monday. Instead, we had reason to cheer with our friends and family.

The Sox may lose this series. Detroit is really, really good. The Patriots have plenty to be concerned about right now too, not least of which is injuries. The excitement from yesterday will slowly fade as the weekend floats away and life goes on.

For one Monday in October, though, everything is perfect. The Patriots won, and we’ll bask in the afterglow of that until next weekend when we’ll do it all over again. The Red Sox are off until tomorrow afternoon. It’s a day that many of us (not me, actually) have off from work or school. It’s a beautiful fall day outside. Let’s enjoy this one, and worry about what comes next later.

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I Love Fantasy Football. I Hate Fantasy Football.

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The 2013 NFL season kicks off on Thursday. For many of us, that’s exciting not because we’re fans of the Broncos or Ravens, but because we have Ray Rice or Peyton Manning on our fantasy football team.

I’m in two leagues. That seems like a good number, right? With one, you’re almost too focused on it and too upset if you have a bad week. When you have two teams, you sort of hedge your bet and can enjoy the competition with another group of friends. Three seems like a bit too much to keep track of effectively. Plus, your interest in each team gets diluted when you have that many. 

The Patriots are my football team. I watch every week and would consider myself a pretty good fan. I was absolutely crushed when we lost in 2008 and felt even worse in 2012. (People are always surprised when I tell them 2012 was worse for me than 2008.)

On one hand, fantasy football is awesome, and supplements my football-watching experience.

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It’s a great outlet for competitiveness. You’re (usually) playing with people that you know, and even if you’re not, the thrill of winning is always fun. There are so many ways to approach roster building. Maybe you draft a player because he’s progressed well over the last couple years. Maybe he had a great camp. Maybe the guy starting in front of him went down with injury. Maybe you “just have a feeling.” For most of us, it’s a combination of all these strategies. Oh, and when they pay off, you feel like a genius.

It also gives Sunday football more importance beyond just rooting for our favorite team. Suddenly, we have interest in that random JAX-CLE game because we have Maurice Jones-Drew on our team, and every yard counts. We’re more familiar with the players around the league. Sundays can be hectic (in the best way) because we’re channel switching, looking at our iPads, and getting alerts about what our players are doing. It’s fun.

It’s also a nice social thing. When you’re in a league with someone, you can talk about how your teams are doing, potential trades, waiver wire moves, etc. Even if you’re not in the same league as someone, you’re still in the fantasy football universe. You speak the same language. You can tell them who you have on your team, and rant about injuries and rave about your breakout players.

With all that said, fantasy football can kinda suck, too.

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It takes away from our favorite teams. Instead of being totally invested in whether our teams are going to win, we’re worried about what individual players in other games are doing. It’s annoying when something big is happening in the game you “should” be watching but your friends don’t really care because they’re so invested in how their fantasy team is doing.

We’re not watching the actual game anymore. We’re watching the statistics. We may know basic things like the score and what quarter it is, but we’re not paying attention to the flow and nuances of the game. The bottom line with the scrolling scores and stats is more important than what’s happening on the field. We shouldn’t care if Issac Redman gets 99 or 100 yards.

The worst scenario is when someone from your fantasy team is playing your favorite team. That’s not a fun way to watch a game. “Well, I hope CJ Spiller gets 250 yards and two touchdowns…but I want the Patriots to win.” Or what about when an opponent has a player from your favorite team? You can’t be torn like that and enjoy a game how it’s meant to be enjoyed.

I like fantasy football. I had my first draft about a month ago and my second one on Monday. They were a blast, and it’ll be fun to follow my players and go for another championship. I’ll just have to remember to pay most of my attention to the Patriots. And not just because I have Tom Brady on one of my teams.

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Thanks for reading…find me on twitter @adamokane. Good luck this season!

Will Ferrell Is Not On Twitter

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Why is Will Ferrell one of the most popular celebrities to follow on Twitter even though he doesn’t have an account? There are so many variations on his name, it’s insane. These usernames are so many degrees away from what Will Ferrell would likely choose if he had a Twitter that I don’t know how anybody falls for it - @itsWillyFerrell, @LegitWillFerrell, @FillWerrell, etc. Multiple Will Ferrell parody accounts have over a million followers. Consider that for a second. An account called @willferrell_fan has 2,220 followers…and hasn’t posted a single tweet.

They’re not posting anything remotely original. They’re recycled jokes and ads. As far as I can tell, most of the accounts don’t make any effort to make the jokes sound like they come from Will Ferrell.

Examples:

Your life is a product of your thoughts, what you think about all day becomes the basis of your life.”

Thanks, Fake Will. Really insightful stuff.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s much more comfortable crying in a Mercedes Benz than on a bike.”

Yeah…ok. The account @itsWillyFerrell posted a tweet about five hours ago:

"2 Chainz looks like the bagel guy from iCarly."

It’s been retweeted 730 times. If you search for that exact joke, though, it’s been bouncing around Twitter for over a year.

Another thing is the picture that they choose for their avatar. It always seems to be this one:

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As if that’s the picture Will Ferrell would pick of himself if he created an account.

All of this leaves me with a few questions:

Do people who follow any of these accounts believe that it’s actually Will Ferrell? What is it about the potential of Will Ferrell being on Twitter that has struck such a chord with the moronic masses? Who are these people making the accounts thinking, “You know what, the world needs another fake Will Farrell Twitter account. Let me check if @its_me_filly_werrell_2 is taken…”

Is it lucrative to create profiles like these? That must be it, right? Maybe I should spend less time criticizing fake Will Ferrell Twitter accounts and more time making them…

Thank you, Paul Pierce: Goodbye To The Most Under-appreciated Athlete in Boston

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My favorite basketball player of all-time is no longer on my favorite team. The Celtics, in order to accelerate their rebuilding process, traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets last night for a package that included three first round picks. This post isn’t going to be about Kevin Garnett (who deserves his own post) or whether I thought the trade was a good one. I’m going to talk about what Paul Pierce has meant to the Celtics franchise over the last fifteen years, and why I think he’s one of the most under-appreciated athletes Boston has ever had.

This post is a little YouTube-heavy, as I wanted the chance to share specific moments I’ll remember about his time as a Celtic.

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The Celtics never should have had the chance to get Pierce. They held the 10th pick in 1998 - Pierce was supposed to be well out of their range - but somehow, lifelong Lakers fan Paul Pierce fell to them. It was a great bit of fortune for a team that needed every bit of luck they could get after the deaths of Len Bias in 1986, Reggie Lewis in 1993, and missing out on Tim Duncan in 1997.

Pierce put together a couple nice seasons his first two years in the league. It was before his third year when tragedy almost struck (again.) On September 25, 2000, Pierce had a bottle smashed over his head and was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back while in a club in Boston. One of the wounds was potentially lethal - the knife was thrust seven inches into his body, but stopped just short of his heart. He got a tattoo on his back to cover up the scars:

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Pierce had a breakout year when the season started a month later: he  didn’t miss any time, and averaged 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Shaq become a Paul Pierce fan during this season, too, and and gave Pierce a nickname that stuck after Pierce dropped 42 on the Lakers:

"Take this down. My name is Shaquille O’Neal, and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth. Quote me on that, and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth."

I became a Celtics fan during the 2001-2002 season. I was 11. The Celtics made their first playoff run in years and ran into the Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game 3, they were down 21 points headed into the fourth quarter. Pierce scored 19 points in the final quarter to lead them to a win, and the biggest fourth quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.

At this point, I was 110% sold on the Celtics and Pierce. The Celts would eventually fall to the Nets that year, but were back for another run in 2003. This video is one of my favorite Pierce plays ever - the Celtics had trailed the Pacers by 16 points early in the third quarter, but were winning by double digits by the end of it. Pierce poured in 21 points in the quarter, including these last three:

Still, the Celtics would fall again in the playoffs, and would hire Danny Ainge to turn the team into a contender. He promptly traded away Pierce’s sidekick Antoine Walker, and the Celtics had some lean years. In 2005, many thought Pierce was done in Boston, after he almost cost the Celtics a playoff series when he was ejected late in Game 6:

The conventional wisdom is that Pierce turned things around a few years later, when the team would add Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. I’ve always thought that it was actually the ‘06 season. He came into camp with a great attitude and had a career year (27 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game) and tried his best to drag a terrible Celtics team to the playoffs. He had an 18 game stretch in which he hit numerous game winners, dropped 50 points on LeBron James, and averaged 33 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. One of my favorite highlights from that run was this shot:

Still, he needed help. After the 2007 season, the Celtics traded some of their young assets for veteran all-stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

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From the introductory press conference to the championship win against the Lakers, that entire season was a blur for me. It felt too good to be true. I had cheered for this terrible team for years and they were suddenly the best team in the NBA. Still, a handful of moments stand out from that season. One is from Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Pierce scored 41 on LeBron, and beat him to a key loose ball at the end of the game. He just wanted it more, and it was clear to see that day:

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The Celtics smacked the Lakers in six games and Paul Pierce was named Finals MVP.

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Finally, It was so satisfying to see Pierce receive his ring when the next season kicked off…seriously, watch it:

The Celtics had playoff runs every year since the championship, but they didn’t win it again. Kevin Garnett (and Kendrick Perkins) blowing out his knee definitely cost this team at least one other championship…but it’s lame to blame injuries.

He’s had a bunch of highlights since the championship, but this one from the end of Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals stands out to me:

I was watching this game with my cousin when he hit that shot. We went crazy. He doesn’t make that shot every time - nobody does - but what separates Pierce is the way he can always get off his shot and make you feel like you had a chance to win the game.

He’s also been the one constant the Celtics have had in recent years.

Here are his numbers in 2008 (age 30), when the Celtics won the title and he was named Finals MVP: 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 46/39/84% shooting on 13.7 shots per game.

Here are his numbers from 2009-2013 (ages 31-35): 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 46/38/84% shooting on 13.7 shots per game.

Yup. He’s been that consistent.

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In an era of highlight reel players like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady, Pierce was more of a throwback. His game was usually below the rim (although there were exceptions: examples 1 2, and 3) and powered by his incredible footwork, changes of speed, and herky-jerky moves (some may call it his “bag of tricks”). On the nights when he was on, it was like a clinic watching him work.

Pierce is one of the most under-appreciated athletes in sports - both nation-wide and by local fans, unfortunately. He’s been the longest-tenured athlete in Boston, having played for the Celtics since 1998 (For comparison, Tom Brady’s first season starting was 2001, and David Ortiz’s was 2003) and leading the team in scoring a remarkable thirteen straight years. I’m not sure how many other players in league history have done that, but it’s not many.

Pierce has averaged over 18 points per game for fourteen straight years - something only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant have done.

Even when it was fashionable (just ask Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Carmelo Anthony), Pierce never demanded a trade. He had every reason to - the Celtics had missed the playoffs two years in a row, he was a top ten player with a terrible supporting cast - but he stuck it out and it paid off.

Another thing about Pierce is that while some players put up hollow numbers in generally meaningless situations, he always brought his A-game against the best players the NBA had to offer - Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony…in fact, LeBron considers him his biggest rival. Brian Windhorst had a great piece on the rivalry, too.

He’s never been afraid to take the big shot. (How many times have Celtics fans seen this or this?) Opposing teams (and their fans) HATE to see this guy with the ball at the end of games, because you know he can kill you.

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Here are his all-time NBA ranks:

  • 20th in points
  • 5th in three pointers made
  • 77th in assists
  • 36th in defensive rebounds
  • 10th in free throws
  • 28th in steals

Check out where he is on the all-time Celtics leaderboard:

  • 3rd in games played
  • 3rd in minutes
  • 2nd in points
  • 3rd in field goals made
  • 1st in free throws and free throw attempts
  • 4th in assists
  • 7th in rebounds

Also,

I consider him the fourth best Celtic of all-time (behind Russell, Bird, and Havlicek) and one of the 40 best NBA players ever.

I completely understand the business side of it. But it’s a shame that this guy didn’t get a chance to finish his career in a Celtics jersey.

Good luck in Brooklyn, Paul. Thanks for the memories.

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Endings: The Celtics, The Office, and oh yeah…graduation

A few things that are important to me are coming to a close.

The Celtics got eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago. It’s always tough to see your team go down, but the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett-lead Celtics have especially been a pleasure to watch over the last six years. It’s widely expected that those two have worn green for the last time on an NBA court, or at least until their jerseys get hung from the Garden rafters.

It’ll be particularly tough to watch Pierce go. I remember when I was 12, being completely mesmerized with his performance in the 2002 playoffs. That run sold me on being a Celtics fan. They went through some tough times in the following years, but the payoff when they won the championship in 2008 was a great, memorable feeling.

It was a privilege to watch a team like these Celtics and know that they could beat anyone on any given night. Even though Garnett and Pierce have been on the wrong side of 30 for over five years, they remained competitive and there was a sense of pride that just radiated from the team that began with them. It was on display even in (what was likely) their final game as Celtics when they almost overcame a 26 point deficit but came up just short. Still, it was a thrill and I look at it as the last gift for Boston fans from two NBA legends. It felt like the end of a great book.

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The truth is, I could write 3,000 words on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but I’ll stop there for now.

The Office has been my favorite show since I was a sophomore in high school. I distinctly remember getting an iPod Video for my 16th birthday (remember those?) and deciding to buy an episode of The Office to try the device out. I purchased “The Injury”, a season two classic, and knew within minutes of hitting ‘play’ that it was my show. The program’s brand of humor felt like they made it specifically for me and it was a story that I cared about.

I never had a doubt that I’d watch every episode of The Office (there were 201 of them) despite the occasional bumps along the road over the last few seasons. The cast and writers rewarded the fans with a pitch perfect series finale last night. They nailed the “goodbye” by doing what they’ve always done best: blending heart and comedy.

I prefer television over film because of how it allows you to follow a story over several years (in The Office’s case, nine) and feel like you know these characters. I know that it’s just fiction, but I wanted to see these people in a happy place when the show drew to a close.

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I’m pouring on the cliches now, but I felt like I grew up with The Office. I started watching it early in high school and now I’m graduating from college. Which brings me to my next point…

I graduate from UNH tomorrow. I started school in kindergarten in 1995, when I was 5 years old. My experience in school isn’t very unique. I went to the elementary schools in town, then the junior high, then the high school. Then I went to a state university. I don’t say that to discount the education that I’ve received. I have great memories and feel prepared for the future.

Still, I can’t help but notice how bittersweet (a cliche but appropriate word here) I’m getting about the entire experience of schooling ending. I’m like anyone else…I don’t like doing homework, I don’t get excited for tests, I write papers the night before they’re due and wish that I could just go to bed, and I stare at the clock when it’s almost time to leave class.

However, your only job when you’re a student in a classroom is to learn. That’s about as good as it gets. All you need to do is listen, do you work, and study once in a while…and that’s the “bad” part. You also get to spend time with your friends and meet new people.

I think school is absolutely one of those things that you don’t realize how much you’re going to miss it until it’s over. To quote Andy Bernard from last night’s Office finale, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days…before you’ve actually left them.”

This isn’t meant to be a sad post as much as a reflective one. The Celtics will get new players. I’ll catch The Office on reruns and Netflix and find new TV shows. And I know that life is really just getting started after school ends.

With that said, the fall is going to be different. I think of the new year as beginning on September 1. Summer, which I always love, is just about over at that point. At that time this year, though, there will be new faces for the Celtics in training camp, The Office won’t be on at 9:00 on Thursdays on NBC, and I won’t be in a classroom. And that’s okay. It’ll just be different.