A quick look at Ricky Pierce’s career ledger reveals some underwhelming statistics.
Out of 969 career games, Pierce started just 269 of them. In only two seasons of his 16-year career did he start a majority of games for his teams. Only twice did he play over 30 minutes per game for an entire season. Seems like teams were afraid to use Ricky, right?
Ricky Pierce is one of those great players who backs up arguments for substance over volume and quality over quantity. The swingman was hardly ever a starter, but was always instrumental in the success of his teams. He didn’t play a heavy load of minutes, but produced an instantaneous deluge of points.
The most striking thing about Pierce’s attack was just how much of it came on exquisite jump shots. He could come in off the bench cold and be instantly hot. Vinnie Johnson may have got the nickname, but Pierce was even more of a microwave. Johnson averaged 17.5 points per 36 minutes in his career, Pierce averaged 22.0. Indeed, from 1984 to 1997, Pierce possessed the 14th highest points per 36 minutes average. All of the players ahead of him were full-time starters.
Ricky just came in and knocked down the jumpers flawlessly and he was able to break down defenses off the dribble. Shooting just a shade under 50% for his career from the field, Pierce was also unstoppable at the line. From the charity stripe he nailed 88% of his shots.
His best years came with the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics. In 1990 with the Bucks, he averaged 23 points per game in just 29 minutes. The next year, split between Milwaukee and Seattle, Pierce averaged 20.5 points in 28 minutes. This made him the first and only player ever to log 20+ points in less than 30 minutes a game in back-to-back seasons. In fact, just Clyde Lovellette has done that during any two seasons. In further fact, just five other players have done that in a single season. And none have done it since Pierce in 1991.
In 1987 and 1990 he was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. In 1991, he was an all-star. In 1989, he enjoyed his finest playoff moments against the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons. The whole postseason was remarkable, however, one game against Atlanta steals the show. It was Game 3 of the 1st Round and Pierce ignited for 35 points in 32 minutes. He was nearly perfect going 13-for-17 from the field, including 2 of 2 from downtown, and 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
One of the best performances from one of the best scorers to ever play basketball. As usual, though, words can only do so much. Just watch the smooth shooting Pierce score a silky 38 points to truly appreciate his game…
Years Played: 1982 – 1998
2x Sixth Man of the Year (1987, 1990)
NBA - 969 Games
14.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 49.3% FG, 87.5% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1982-83 through 1997-98 season)
36th Points, 55th PPG
24th FTs Made, 5th FT%
36th FGs Made, 46th FG%
26th Games Played, 67th Minutes Played