first group, we're going to go to whoever's hot or whichever matchup is in our
favor, so any one of us can start out leading us in scoring," Sikma says.
"Then when things get stagnant, Ricky comes in and we rely on him. If it's
going right, we get a nice mix of scoring from Ricky, then from someone else.
That keeps other teams off balance."
Pierce grew up
outside Dallas, in Garland, the seventh of nine children. He credits his
toughness to his father, Carl, who was a supervisor on a number of civil
projects in Garland. Pierce's father worked hard to keep food on the table but
always had a smile. "He's on my mind when I get down," says Pierce.
"He said things aren't going to always go your way, but just keep pushing,
they'll work out in the long run." Carl Pierce died of leukemia in July
1989, and Ricky dedicated his second sixth-man award to his memory.
A desire to see
new scenery drew Pierce to Walla Walla (Wash.) Junior College. But after
putting Texas in his rearview mirror for a season, he made a homesick U-turn
and joined Mike Schuler, now the L.A. Clipper coach, at Rice in Houston.
"Ricky never said a whole lot," Schuler recalls. "He let his play
speak for him." Rice had won 38 games in the six seasons before Pierce
arrived; the Owls won 34 in the three years he spent in Houston. Despite being
double-and triple-teamed, he averaged 26.8 points during his senior season,
second in the nation. The Pistons then picked him in the first round of the
While Ricky was a
starter in his college days, Joyce was coming off the bench, so to speak, as a
singer. She had quit her career as a Los Angeles-based stewardess after beating
out some 300 vocalists in a 1980 audition to become a member of the Fifth
Dimension. The day before Joyce Wright was to perform with the group in Hawaii,
she attended a predraft college basketball showcase, where she posed for
publicity shots with some players. As Joyce remembers it, she had on jeans and
a T-shirt, and her face was swollen from having her wisdom teeth pulled.
like a chipmunk," she says. "I mean, those are blackmail pictures. But
when Ricky saw me, he thought I was the prettiest girl he had ever seen."
Joyce was taken with his legs, his sincerity and his Texas directness; he was
so lost he thought she sang for the Supremes. When he finally did see her dance
and hear her harmonize Up, Up and Away, he was transported. "What really
got me was the professionalism she showed," Ricky says. "Seeing her on
that stage, with that smile, the way she kept a hold on the audience. They were
The Pierces were
married in June '87, and Joyce quit the group a few months later. Before then,
she and Ricky spent some of their summers on the road together, lounging in Las
Vegas and cruising the Caribbean. Now they're dedicated homebodies who are
content to spend time in their tasteful house in suburban Milwaukee, playing
with their 1½-year-old son, Christian—a daughter is due this month—and talking.
"I'm in love with her personality," says Ricky. "I'm in love with
probably kill me for saying this," says Laker swingman Terry Teagle, who
played against Pierce at Baylor and is one of his closest friends. "But he
has changed tremendously. He was a difficult person to get to know, and he's
still his own man. But because of Joyce and his success, he's loosened up a
The success came
slowly. He barely played at Detroit and was dealt to the San Diego Clippers
after his rookie year. After a season there, he was included—at the urging of
Schuler, then a Milwaukee assistant—in a six-player trade that sent Terry
Cummings to the Bucks and Marques Johnson to the Clippers.
Pierce made a
favorable impression on Don Nelson, Milwaukee's coach at the time. Pierce was
rehabbing an injured knee when Nelson spied him stoically running 100 laps
around the Milwaukee Arena. Once Pierce was healthy, Nelson started using him.
Nelson had created the concept of point forward to complement the point guard,
and he gave Pierce the freedom to become simply a point producer. With Sidney
Moncrief and Paul Pressey starting at guard, Pierce quickly adjusted to coming
off the bench.
"Even in his
early years, Ricky was a very salty player," says Moncrief, now with the
Atlanta Hawks. "He was the kind of player who knew how to take advantage of
his skills by analyzing the weaknesses of other players, and he always competed