By JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer

If it didn’t really sink in when he slipped to the 10th pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Paul Pierce got the message when he went home to Los Angeles to play in the All-Star Game and got booed by his hometown fans.

“That’s just the story of my career: Being the underdog, not really being liked. I guess somebody has to be the villain,” Pierce said Friday, a day before he is to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’m comfortable with that.”

A 10-time All-Star and the MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals, Pierce was in a class of 16 scheduled to be honored at the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine Saturday night. Also giving the event a Boston Celtics feel: Bill Russell, who is already in the Hall as a player, will be inducted as a coach, making him the fifth person to be honored for both roles.

Others to be inducted are Villanova coach Jay Wright, Detroit Pistons defensive star Ben Wallace, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh, longtime Portland and Sacramento coach Rick Adelman, three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, Washington and Sacramento All-Star Chris Webber and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith.

The Hall’s committees, which are focused on preserving all areas of the game, have also selected former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, longtime coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, scouting pioneer Howard Garfinkel to be inducted as contributors. Clarence “Fats” Jenkins was picked by the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Croatian Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc was tabbed by the International Committee, Bob Dandridge by the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore from the Women’s Veterans Committee.

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Pierce, who starred at Inglewood High, has long held a grudge over slipping in the draft – behind such players as Michael Olowokandi (first), Raef LaFrentz (third) and Robert Traylor (sixth). But he conceded on Friday that it worked out for the best.

“I’m happy with my role. It made me who I am: a guy that’s going to scratch and claw. I earned everything I got,” he said during the pre-induction news conference at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Friday.

“When you talk about iconic sports franchises … I couldn’t have asked for a better place to land,” said Pierce, who is second only to John Havlicek on the Celtics’ scoring list. “I wouldn’t be the player I am today, I wouldn’t be standing here, if there was any other path.”

Ackerman had worked for the NBA and USA Basketball when she was named the first president of the newly created WNBA in 1996. She guided the startup for its first decade, helping it survive where other women’s leagues have faltered.

“To see them at 25 is first and foremost a feeling of great pride,” said Ackerman, who is now the Big East commissioner. “To see how women’s sports have evolved, and with the 50th anniversary of Title IX that’s another cause for celebration. … It has been really, really great to see.”

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Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

      

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