There's one thing every superhero needs - a villain. You can take care of everything on your end, but in order to reach the highest peaks, you need an adversary to push you that extra mile. Depending on your preference, that's what Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant were to each other. One in the East, the other one in the West, they met in the playoffs and had epic showdowns. The fact they played for the Lakers and Celtics was the cherry on top.
They may not have been close, but Kobe and Pierce were a major part of each other's lives. The fact that they would directly match up in the Finals helped build the drama. It's different when it's Duncan vs Kobe. They were great rivals, but we knew there wouldn't be much one-on-one time. In the end, that's how Pierce got his nickname.
“There would be no Paul Pierce The Truth without Kobe. People know where the nickname came from. It was from me aving a really good game against Kobe and Shaq dubbed me "The Truth." It's very hard for me, I felt like I lost a brother.”
Paul Pierce, The Jump
That's why the great ones always have so much mutual respect. Magic and Bird became great friends when their careers were at the end. The day Magic announced he had HIV, Bird said it was the first day of his life he didn't feel like playing basketball. You are eternally connected to your rival, and in a way, only that person can fully understand what you are going through in your career.
Pierce particularly remembered one commercial shoot for Nike. A lot of the Nike guys were there and they had to tape some one-on-one action. The director had Pierce and Kobe match up.
“I'm casually dribbling, like a shoot around type of thing. I'm going through a move and he pokes the ball out of my hand. I'm like 'What?? Let's get this shot.' I get the ball again, and I do it again and he pokes it again. The next thing I know we are engaging, in a commercial, in a one on one battle. That's how competitive he was.”
Paul Pierce, The Jump
Paul Pierce will always be The Truth, but from now on every time someone calls him that, he will think of Kobe at least for a little bit.