How Poker Game Blunder Cost Former NBA Star Paul Pierce His Job at ESPN

How Poker Game Blunder Cost Former NBA Star Paul Pierce His Job at ESPN

Retired Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce opened up on the All the Smoke podcast about why ESPN fired him in 2021 from his role as an NBA analyst, and it turns out the reason stems from his behavior during a poker home game.

In April 2021, the poker enthusiast and Basketball Hall of Famer hosted a poker game that would inevitably cost him a high-profile sports media gig, which he admitted in a brief X video. The poker game in question involved strippers and marijuana, which isn't anything out of the ordinary among celebrity home games. But the NBA champion made the mistake of airing the festivities on Instagram Live, and it went viral.

Basketball Star Makes a Mistake in a Poker Game

Pierce, who made over $100 million in salary during his 15-year NBA career, had a controversial exit from ESPN three years ago. He was quickly fired after a viral racy video showing the hoops legend smoking weed during a home poker game surfaced on social media.

It was clear at the time that ESPN canned Pierce over the video. But now he's finally opened up publicly about the firing, and he admitted that he didn't even know that Instagram viewers could record a video when a user goes live.

"The day I got fired, it was all going down, it my boy's birthday. Poker game. He has some girls there, and I'm feeling good, you know. I'm enjoying retirement, it's poker night, my boy's birthday, come on, now," Pierce said.

Pierce was having a good time playing poker, getting a massage at the table, winning some money, and celebrating his friend's birthday. What could possibly go wrong? Well, he decided to go live on Instagram from inside the house hosting the poker game, and made a costly mistake.

"Then I decided to pull my phone out. Boom! I thought I had some good visuals. The girls was having some fun. They was dancing, I'm getting a massage. Look, you don't understand, if you ever play poker and you winning all the money, you feel good. I wanted to see the moment. I was caught in the moment," he continued.

He did perhaps get a bit caught up in the moment and decided to share that moment with his social media followers. The only problem for him was that some viewers recorded it and then posted it on their social media accounts. ESPN, which has some strict code of conduct policies for their employees, saw the video and fired the basketball star.

After cutting off the live video, Pierce made the wise choice to refrain from posting the video to his social media platforms. But he claims he was unaware that those who watched the stream live could record it and send it out.

"The night was over, I go home, I had a good time, won the money. The girls, they had a good time, whatever. I go home, fall asleep. I slept good that night, cause when you lose, you don't sleep good."

The next morning, Pierce explained, he woke up to discover his "phone is off the chain" and was blowing up. He then pulled up some messages on his phone to investigate why so many people had been contacting him while he slept.

"Then I look up, the video is showing, I'm like, 'oh, s**t."

Pierce, who was alleged to have refused to pay off a poker debt in 2022, has played in a few televised poker games, including some previous shows on PokerGO. He has also competed in a few World Series of Poker (WSOP) events but doesn't have a cash.

The 2008 NBA champion averaged 19.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over a 15-year career, all but four seasons in Boston. He retired from the NBA following the 2016-2017 season and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.


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