Rick Pitino, the former President of Basketball Operations and head coach of the Boston Celtics, wanted Dirk Nowitzki, not Paul Pierce in the 1998 NBA Draft.
“In Rome, Pitino watched the gangly 19-year old bang in threes like a guard. ‘I was blown away,’” said Pitino, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.
“At lunch, Pitino told Nowitzki: Skip the draft combine. I’ll take you at No. 10. Nowitzki asked Pitino how he could trust him. Pitino got Red Auerbach, the Celtics’ vice chairman, on the phone, and, according to Pitino, Nowitzki was sold. “I went home,” says Pitino, “thinking we had our guy.”
Of course, Pitino did not get his guy.
The Dallas Mavericks traded for the ninth pick and took Nowitzki one pick before the Celtics were able to.
Instead, the Celtics chose Kansas’ forward Paul Pierce; who was projected to go as high as the top five.
Everything worked out for the C’s as Pierce spent 15 years in Boston, becoming the franchise’s second leading scorer behind the great John Havlicek.
Pierce will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, (9/11) at 7PM EST.
Nowitzki will almost surely be inducted into the Hall when he becomes eligible in 2023.