Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/26/12
BOSTON — Paul Pierce gave Jason Collins his game ball, everybody clapped and that was pretty much that. A few days later, Pierce’s token of recognition for the veteran center’s hard work was all but forgotten for many members of the Celtics, who were much more impressed with the 40-point performance that earned Pierce the game ball in the first place. But for Collins, the gesture spoke volumes. “That was unexpected,” Collins said last week, after he had accepted the ball as an acknowledgment of his defense and screen-setting, which did not show up in the box score. “It says a lot about the type of person that Paul is, that he had a game like that yet my teammates still appreciate what it is I do out there on the court.” Pierce giving Collins the game ball was a surprise, not only because Celtics ownership had awarded it to Pierce for becoming the oldest player in franchise history to score 40 points in a regulation game, while Collins picked up all of one point, two rebounds and six fouls in the win over the Cavaliers. Pierce’s act was doubly surprising because the very practice of giving out game balls is rare in the NBA. Several players could not recall seeing a game ball ever awarded, going as far back as their high school days. Courtney Lee remembered one instance of receiving a game ball, and it bore similarities to Pierce’s gesture. As a senior at Western Kentucky, Lee said he lit into teammate D.J. Magley after the then-freshman did not know a play. Lee barked that Magley should either learn the plays or get off the court, which he said led to a phone call from Magley’s father to Hilltoppers coach Darrin Horn to ask Lee not to be so tough on the young forward. Things eventually got ironed out, according to Lee, when he was given the game ball for his performance against Michigan in the Great Alaska Shootout. Lee then handed the ball to Magley, who had shot 8-for-9 while setting career highs of 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks in the win. Apparently, Lee’s gift was appreciated. He and Magley were key players on that WKU team, which would reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament later that season. (Magley later transferred to Tulsa.) “It was cool sailing from there,” Lee said. “It translated. It means something to the guy you give the game ball to. [Collins], it was different. J.C. didn’t get yelled at or call his father or nothing. But D.J., it helped him and got his confidence up so he knew I wasn’t a bad guy.” Giving out a game ball is largely a football phenomenon, and while game balls earned on the gridiron are treasured, in basketball the trophy is even more meaningful. The last time Collins could remember a teammate receiving a game ball was with the New Jersey Nets almost five years ago, when Jason Kidd averaged a triple-double in the 2007 playoffs. For those keeping score at home, that is two future Hall of Fame players receiving game balls in 12 years, both putting forth near-superhuman efforts to get one. Needless to say, role players like Collins and Lee long ago gave up dreams of collecting game balls in the NBA. “Me? Getting a 40-bomb?” Lee said with a laugh. “Listen now, I know my role. If anything, I’ll get a game ball when I get a defensive stop on the last second in an NBA Finals game. That’s game ball-worthy to me.” Collins told teammates he planned to take his spherical trophy home, get it framed and give it a prominent place on his trophy shelf. It was his first game ball, and unless NBA tradition suddenly changes, odds are strong that it will be his last. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Bill Belichick: Brandon Weeden 'can make all the throws'

Chip Kelly: Eagles coaching staff to blame for slow start

Tom Brady: I don't care about Greg Hardy's personal feelings

Report: Odell Beckham Jr. fined for punching Bills safety

Tannehill admits to beefing with practice squad players

Arian Foster to have increased workload against Colts


Rob Gronkowski will go off if Sean Lee can’t play

Roddy White backs off criticism of role in Falcons offense

David Blatt: Kevin Love to fully practice for first time Saturday

Woodson: Manning interception 'has eluded me for 18 years'

Johnny Manziel's grandfather's lake house burns down

Report: CC Sabathia already at Connecticut rehab facility

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Warriors take next step in effort to build San Francisco arena

Greg Hardy: Ready to come out ‘guns blazing’ post-suspension

Report: CC Sabathia already at Connecticut rehab facility

NHL hockey is back and that’s awesome

Jake Arrieta's sweet ... sinker?

10 matchups to watch during NFL Week 5

Top 10 storylines for Week 6 of the college football season

Astros pitch their way to 3-0 win in WC game

Arrieta-Cole, objectively one of best playoff matchups ever

The controversy and numbers behind the 'CONCACAF Cup'

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker