I’m not sure about you, but when I need an interpretation of what constitutes a possible gang sign, I go straight to the Mormon executive director of basketball operations.
“That’s kind of his sign,” Danny Ainge said. “Blood, sweat, and tears.”
Blood, maybe. Others, including the NBA, immediately construed Paul Pierce’s gesture to Al Horford Saturday night as “menacing,” and allegedly gang-related, fining the Celtics star $25,000 for the incident that occurred during the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to Atlanta.
“I know it was unique,” NBA commissioner David Stern said about the fine. “You can check the gesture and you can check what it’s usually compared to. Our guys made their decision. I’m not into the etymology of gestures.”
We’re not either, except for the occasional extended arm on our morning commute. But since Saturday, Pierce’s gesture has been widely interpreted as anything from a sign for the Bloods from Piru Steet in Los Angeles, to a local Boston gesture signifying “Three’s Up.” Maybe it was a “B” for Boston. Maybe it was a “B” for Bloods. And, yes, of course, “Blood, sweat, and tears.” Thank you, Danny.
Whatever the significance of his act, NBA message boards lit up in the wake of the incident Saturday night, immediately recognizing the LA native’s symbol. Perhaps the league reacted swiftly to the knee-jerk claims of rival fan bases. And one would hope after Pierce’s past he wouldn’t be blatantly tossing Blood signs around on the court in Atlanta.
All we can be certain of is that Pierce’s gesture appeared no different than any of the following:
But unless Pierce meant to tell Horford his delivery would be fresh and hot like everybody’s favorite village pizza joint, it’s safe to assume there was a bit more behind his heat of the moment sign than giving the “A-OK.”
“Those of us from L.A. know that Paul Pierce went to Inglewood High, and we also know that means that B probably didn’t stand for Boston,” writes the Fourth Quarter blog.
Bostonians have another answer, whether it be accurate information or convenient homerism defending the Celtics star. “Paul was simply throwin his '3's up' - i.e. reppin Boston,” writes Sons of Sam Horn poster “Brookliner.” “Not reppin the bloods, not Ingelwood, not calling Horford names. I know most of us are 'from Boston', but nobody living in the 'burbs will be familiar with the practice. The whole '3's up' thing is used by kids from the hood to rep Boston - simple as that.”
Indeed, an entry in Urban Dictionary defines “Throw them threes up,” as “a hand symbol representing Boston,” likely derived from the song, “3’s Up,” by local rap artist Stein. Ironically enough, another local artist, Benzino, lays claim to the song, “Throw Them 3’s.” It was Benzino bodyguard Trevor Watson who was convicted of stabbing Pierce in 2000.
For the record, the top result in a Google image search for “Three’s Up Boston” is this:
However, if we take the time to study the images of gang warfare, Pierce’s symbol looks much like that delivered by the Bloods of LA.
Then again, according to this nifty color chart, Pierce’s thumb and index finger appear too far apart to be giving the Piru sign to Horford. I could be wrong. As of Monday morning, analyzing gang sign charts and doing Google searches for "Bloods Piru A-OK sign" wasn't exactly on the "likely" list for the week, so I may be ill-prepared.
Pierce has made the gestures all season long, as Ainge pointed out in his “Blood, sweat, and tears” explanation, including before last night’s contest in what might be seen as an act of defiance to the league. It could be as simple as Pierce telling Horford that the Hawks would be taking “zero” games in this playoff series (at that point). It could be as concerning as Pierce threatening the rookie with a symbol of gang violence.
The NBA saw it as the latter, perhaps overreacting, perhaps not. Pierce has declined comment on the entire situation, in lieu of laughing it off. Maybe that’s because there’s something to the fine, maybe that’s because his team is all of sudden on the verge of not making it out of the first round.
Regardless, here’s one sign fans want to see from the Celtics tomorrow night: Life.