Catching Up With: Ray Allen

By Jammel Cutler #33

These days Ray Allen spend his time on the golf course, and because old habits die hard, in the basketball gym putting up countless jumpers as if he were still playing in the League. His three-point shot is still a picture of perfection, the sound of the ball swishing through nylon a reminder that he’s one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

Although blessed with hops (reminder: Allen participated in the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest) and a smooth shot, it wasn’t neither attribute that was the biggest contributor to Allen’s Hall of Fame career. It would be his unstoppable work ethic and drive to perfection that would be the basis of his two championships, 24,405 points, 10 All-Star selections and NBA-best 2,973 three-pointers.

Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Growing up a military child helped Allen adapt. In his early years Allen moved from different homes and schools, he always to had to make new friends at every stop. At UConn, he would have many famous duels against players he would see later in his NBA career such as Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson and Felipe Lopez. Allen would enjoy his best collegiate season in 1996 when he won Big East player of the year and UPI player of the year. After his legendary college career, Allen entered the 1996 NBA Draft, a heralded class that would produce three MVPs, 11 All-Stars and when all is said and done, up to five Hall of Famers. Allen was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks and instantly became a franchise cornerstone. His time with the Bucks peaked during the 2001 season when the featured big three of Allen, Glen Robinson and Sam Cassell went to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Iverson-led Sixers. 

Allen was eventually traded to The Seattle SuperSonics, where he teamed with a young Rashard Lewis for a few good runs in the crowded Western Conference playoff race. Allen’s career was shaping up as another hard-lucked All-Star who would never see the Finals, but a on draft night of 2007, Allen was traded to the Celtics. Boston would go on to acquire Kevin Garnett, forming a power trio along with Paul Pierce to become an instant contender.The trio would win the 2008 NBA Championship, becoming the blueprint for modern day NBA super teams. Allen would go on to join the rival Miami Heat for another championship run in 2013. In Game 6 of the 2013 Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Allen hit one of the most famous three-pointers in history to tie the game. The Heat would go on to tie the series and win Game 7 for Allen’s second championship. Allen would play his final NBA season in a Heat uniform in 2014 before finishing his career with the most three-pointers in NBA history and being elected into the Hall of Fame.

Off the court, Allen worked with director Spike Lee and starred alongside Denzel Washington in He Got Game. Considered one of the best Hollywood movies on basketball with rumors of Allen and Lee re-collaborating on a sequel, Allen portrayed the character Jesus Shuttlesworth, the No. 1 high school prospect in the nation. As Shuttlesworth, Allen took viewers on what life is like for a basketball prospect struggling with the everyday temptations of agents, the environment around them and life in general.  

We recently sat down with Allen and spoke about his career, He Got Game and his new book which is entitled From The Outside: My Journey Through Life And The Game I Love. The book is currently available in bookstores nationwide.

What inspired you to write your book, and tell your story?

My book is important to me because I have a hell of a story to tell. I want to show people all the things that I been through helped me to get to where I am today.

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What was it like working with Denzel Washington and Spike Lee on one of the best basketball movies of all time, He Got Game?

Denzel is the best at what he does and Spike is the best at what he does. We didn’t make the playoffs that year, and I never had any previous acting experience before He Got Game. I remember Spike asked other people such as Allen Iverson to be in the movie but he didn’t read for the part. I was living in Connecticut at the time which is about two hours from the city, so I would drive up and read lines with all these people that I watched on TV. I remember being so nervous. Around the third or fourth time I came back to read lines I read with Denzel, he just made everything so easy for me.

Before we touch on your career, where were you when you got the call to be in the Hall of Fame? 

I was in the airport when I got the call to be in the Hall of Fame. I don’t see it as a validation for my career but all the years of work that I put in, all the nights I stayed up, all the things I sacrificed for the game all came to ahead. For me, I always tried to work harder than the next person because of things that people would say—for example, I was too skinny or I couldn’t touch the backboard—stuff like that always made me work harder.

You grew up in a military household traveling all the over the world at a young age. How did that lifestyle eventually prepare you for life at UConn? 

The military gave me extreme discipline and being a student-athlete [was] something  I needed at the time. During this time sports was my refuge. As I got older I gravitated towards basketball. There were so many great things at UConn, playing in the Big East Tournament and things of that nature, but building relationships with my teammates is probably the best thing that I can think of as far my favorite memories at UConn. They’re still some of my best friends to this day, the bond we made will forever be cemented. 

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What was it like playing at UConn in the old Big East? 

It was great, the level of competition that we had during that time was at an all-time high. You had Kerry Kittles at Villanova, Iverson at Georgetown, Felipe Lopez at St. John’s. We had a running joke during this time that whoever was No. 1 and went to play Georgetown in DC always walked out with a loss. It even happened to us. I remember we had a big game against Villanova, it was scheduled for a Monday night but it was canceled for the next day due to a blizzard. The hype for that game was unreal. Things like that are what made The Big East special.

You were apart of one of the best draft classes in history, do you feel that your draft class is one of the best? 

I’m not a draft expert but each draft class has its own set of special players. Mine had myself, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Marcus Camby and others—I apologize if I missed anyone—but if you take my draft and put it against another draft class—for example, 2003—you really can’t compare because we all played during different eras with different rules. 

You had some special teams with the Bucks. I think the Big Three that included yourself, Glen Robinson and Sam Cassel could’ve won a championship. What was it like playing with guys of that caliber? 

That team was special. Sam wasn’t there when l was drafted but when he came he added a veteran dimension to us that we didn’t have. He won a ring with the Rockets so he knew how to win. And Glen was unstoppable. He doesn’t get enough credit as a player. His skill set was amazing for a guy his size. Those Milwaukee teams with myself, Sam and Glen were so special. I wish we could’ve accomplished more than we did.

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During the 2001 season, The Bucks exceeded expectations and went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals against The Sixers. How tough was that series mentally and physically? 

That series was so tough. We played a hard-fought seven game series. We were one game away from the NBA Finals. I think the way we were constructed that we were a better matchup against The Lakers. Who knows what might’ve happened if we played against them.

During the 2003 trade deadline, you were traded to Seattle. What was it like playing with the Sonics during this era? 

Playing in Seattle was like I was back in college, Rashard [Lewis] was great, he was a hell of a shooter. Luke Ridnour was an underrated guard. Seattle was so much fun, probably the most fun I had in my career.

Probably one of your most memorable years with the Sonics was the 2005 playoffs. You guys exceeded expectations that year and played a competitive six-game series against the Spurs when they were in the middle of their Tim Duncan-led dynasty. What do you recall most from that series? 

I remember that we lost in 6 to them in a very competitive series. I remember Bruce Bowen sticking me on the majority of the series. The way Pop used him back then was that he guarded the best perimeter player. He really didn’t use him for help defense as much. Looking back on things he was probably one of the toughest people that ever guarded me.

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While in Seattle, you became embroiled in a beef with Kobe Bryant? How did this beef manifest itself?

It wasn’t really a beef, it was two players who had the will to win, and did what it took to win. We were just two competitive guys who were willing to leave it all on the floor.

After Seattle, you were traded to Boston. The obvious championship aside, what are your memories of the 2007-08 season?

The 2008 season was real special. At the time it was like a brotherhood. I remember we came together so fast. Everyone on that team was the reason why we won the championship. It wasn’t just Paul [Pierce], KG and myself. P.J. Brown provided a big spark for us, Sam [Cassel] was also very important. When we won that title, I reflected on everything I went through the 12 years prior. It took me 12 years to win my first NBA Championship and that’s a memory I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.

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After winning the championship, you guys went back to the Finals in 2010 and had some intense playoff battles with The Heat in 2011 and 2012. When did you know that your time in Boston was coming to an end? 

When you’re in contract negotiations with teams, obviously you discuss money, but you talk about your role, minutes and things of that nature. My contract talks with Boston started at the beginning of that season. We wanted a contract done so Kevin, Paul and I can retire together. Based on the player I was at that time, I knew I was going to take a pay cut. By the time the offseason came, they already signed and resigned a few guys and when it came down to me, they said this is all we have left. I knew what everyone at my position was making, so based on what I requesting, they were like, we can’t pay you that amount even though they could’ve. I knew from that point on that the relationship was pretty much done. The other teams that were left for me to negotiate with were the L.A. Clippers, the Miami Heat, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Timberwolves. I really considered the Clippers, but they thought I was using them as leverage in negotiations with Boston. Jamal Crawford signed with them, so I ruled them out. Based off that, signing with the Heat was a no-brainer. 

In Game 6 of the 2013 Finals in Miami, the crowd started to leave as the Spurs was about to celebrate another championship, then you hit that shot and changed the entire series. What were you thinking about as the ball left your hands and which championship meant the most to you?

I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t have to time to think. I just shot it and by the grace of God it went in and it propelled us to a Game 7, which we won and I was able to win my second NBA Championship. I can’t really compare the 2008 and the 2013 championship because they’re both special in my book, and the struggle that I went through to win both rings.