If you’ve ever heard the song “California Love,” then you know about where Paul Pierce comes from. On the song’s outro, 2Pac raps, “Inglewood, Inglewood, always up to no good.” Pierce moved to Inglewood, Calif. after the sixth grade. He and his mother lived with his two athletically gifted older half-brothers (both would go on to have collegiate and professional sports careers), and although they weren’t around the house much, Pierce found his escape in sports, too. Instead of banging, Pierce balled.

He balled wherever there was an available hoop. Whether at the YMCA, the nearby blacktops, or at a local community center, Pierce traveled with the game, searching to use and abuse rims. It took until Pierce’s junior season to sprout into the outline of the 6'7" wingman that he is now (he was cut from varsity as a sophomore due to his pudgy 5'8" size), putting his persistence and patience to the test. By taking those early high school lumps—by channeling the rejection and putting it back into the game instead of the streets—Pierce developed a chippy resilience that’s made him the NBA that star he is. That’s just the truth, man.