Former Kansas Jayhawks star Paul Pierce among Naismith Hall of Fame inductees for 2021

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Former University of Kansas basketball forward Paul Pierce is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.

Pierce, whose jersey No. 34 hangs both in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse and Boston Garden in recognition of his three seasons at KU and 15 with the Celtics (19 in the NBA total) on Sunday was one of 16 individuals revealed as Class of ’21 Hall of Famers in an announcement that aired on ESPN.

The Class of 2021 will be recognized Sept. 9-11 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Also, former Kansas City Kings and Kansas State coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was named a member of the Class of 2021. Fitzsimmons, one of 15 NBA coaches with 800 or more victories, was recognized posthumously. He died in 2004.

Pierce, 43, and the late Fitzsimmons will be honored with fellow inductees Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Ben Wallace, Toni Kukoc, Bob Dandridge, Lauren Jackson, Yolanda Griffith, Jay Wright, Val Ackerman, Clarence Jenkins, Pearl Moore, Rick Adelman and Howard Garfinkel. Bill Russell, who is in the Hall as a player, now will be recognized as a coach as well.

Pierce will enter the Hall as a first-time nominee. He retired from the NBA in 2017.

Pierce was a member of the Celtics’ 2008 NBA title team and was named MVP of The Finals. At KU, he was a unanimous first-team All-American in 1998. At Inglewood High in California, Pierce was named California Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American in 1995.

Pierce earned all-Big Eight, freshman All-American and co-Big Eight Freshman of the Year honors in 1996. As a sophomore at KU, he was named Big Eight Conference Tournament MVP.

As a junior Pierce was named first-team all-Big 12 and MVP of the conference tourney. He was a consensus All-American and a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith awards. He finished his Jayhawks career as KU’s fifth-leading scorer all-time. Currently he ranks 10th on the all-time scoring list at KU.

The Celtics selected Pierce No. 10 overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. He spent 19 seasons as a pro with the Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers. He was a 10-time All-Star, four-time all-NBA selection to go with being 2008 NBA champion. Pierce ranks third in Celtics history in games played, second in points scored and seventh in rebounds.

Pierce’s 2008 NBA title teammates, Ray Allen (Class of 2018) and Kevin Garnett (Class of 2020) are already in the Hall of Fame.

Pierce’s jersey was hung in the Fieldhouse rafters in a ceremony in 2003 and in Boston Garden in 2017. Pierce, who was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2018, has been elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and will be inducted in November 2021 in ceremonies in Kansas City.

Pierce played at KU from 1996 to ’98. He never lost a game in Allen Fieldhouse. In one of his most memorable outings, he erupted for 31 points off 14-of-17 shooting — 3-of-3 from three — in the Jayhawks’ 83-70 victory over Kelvin Sampson’s Oklahoma Sooners on Feb. 23, 1998. That was the game in which Sampson called time out late then walked over to Pierce, who scored 15 straight points at one point, and patted him on the back.

“I’ve never seen anybody take over a game like he did against Oklahoma on Senior Night when he was a junior,” said Eric Chenowith, one of Pierce’s teammates at KU who was two years behind Pierce in school.

“Paul Pierce is the best player I’ve ever played with or against on any level at any time,” Chenowith added in an interview in 2008.

“Coach Sampson called time out and gave him a standing ovation. He was saying, ‘What else can we do?’” said former KU forward T.J. Pugh, another teammate of Pierce’s.

“I know how he felt. I thought I could guard people, but guarding Paul? No way. He got so good his junior year it became embarrassing,” Pugh added.

Pierce during his KU jersey retirement ceremony in 2003 said: “These (days at KU) were the best days of my life. Coach (Roy) Williams always said, ‘The sky is the limit. You can be one of the best to play the game. It just depends on how hard you work.’ I’ve put in the work and will never be satisfied.”

“Paul Pierce was a great, great player for us. He’s still one of the greatest players in all the world and was a pleasure to coach,” Williams said at the time.

In November, Pierce will enter the college hall, which was founded in 2006, with Len Bias of Maryland, UCLA’s David Greenwood, Hersey Hawkins of Bradley, Ohio State’s Jim Jackson and North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison.

The coaches to be enshrined in the College Hall are Rick Byrd, who won most of his 805 games at Belmont, and Tom Penders, who took four different programs to the NCAA Tournament.