In 2008, the Celtics were supposed to waltz into the playoffs, then jitterbug into Finals and once they got to the Finals they were supposed to, I dunno … paso doble their way into a championship. In 2008 they did all those things, except for one little misstep in the first round.
With the Hawks that year, the Celtics developed two left feet.
Atlanta just wasn’t supposed to be good enough to hang with the triple-headed beast of Boston. Everyone believed the Hawks were over-matched. Celtic captain, Paul Pierce, especially thought this. He thought it so thoroughly that he bet soft-spoken Al Horford a hard $10,000 that his Hawks wouldn’t win a single game that series.
Pierce offered that bet near the end of Game 2. Horford accepted looking at an 0-2 start to the series.
And the rest, as they say, is captured in the photo above. Absolutely no one says that. Still, Horford got his licks in and Paul Pierce lost $10K on his way to his eventual first Championship win. The Hawks won three of the next four games and pushed the playoffs to a full seven. Seemingly, Pierce owed Horford 1/1,636th of his annual salary.
Horford and teammate Marvin Williams relayed this story Monday on Atlanta radio Brandon and Woolvey Show on the Zone 790 podcast:
Horford: Marvin was a witness. We’re at the free throw line and [Pierce] was telling me that they were gonna sweep us and all this and … we bet and I never got anything.
B&W: What does he owe you?
Horford: Ten Thousand.
Williams: True story.
B&W: He literally said he’d give you 10 grand if you win a game?
Williams: He bet us 10 thousand we wouldn’t win a game.
B&W: No wonder he’s avoiding you.
Most of the outlets that picked up on this story focused on the Truth’s welching nature. Sure, Pierce allegedly squelched on a bet that would be the equivalent of someone who makes $50K a year not making good on a $30 debt, but that’s not the only story here.
Let’s assume Horford’s got his facts straight (and from looking at his reaction near the end of Game 3), why else would the normally subdued Horford get so hyped unless it was over money? That’s a money jump. I won $12 at Keno once and it caused me to accidentally roundhouse some old Spanish lady passing through the casino. I know all about the “money jump.”
The incident gained a lot of postgame attention after Pierce made his way toward the Atlanta bench as if he was going to fight Horford. It didn’t happen, but the Celtic captain flashed what many believed to be a gang sign. Seemingly, that was enough to signify that Pierce wasn’t paying and Horford wasn’t going to press the issue.
But like I said, the bet isn’t the only issue here. What about Horford making the bet in the first place? There’s something demeaning about betting 1/375th of one’s annual salary because of your confidence that your team could make mighty Casey swing and miss not three times, but just once. Many would say only an idiot wouldn’t make that bet.
But the bet was insignificant enough (to millionaires) that dignifying it with an agreement served as a tacit acknowledgment that the Hawks just weren’t supposed to win. I’m unconvinced that Pierce buying that acknowledgment from Horford for a fraction of his yearly income wasn’t a win for Pierce even if he had paid Horford in full. Let us not forget who went on to win the series.
Also, I feel compelled to make the obligatory comparison of Pete Rose’s pre-game betting that got him banned from baseball for life to the Horford- Pierce in-game wagering that no one seems cares about.
I couldn’t resist.