Ray Allen was the reason the Celtics won a championship in 2008.
It all started in 2007, when Danny Ainge got the Seattle Sonics to take Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, and their #1 pick (Jeff Green, the fifth pick, which was a horribly low pick for the second worst team in the league) to Seattle for Ray Allen and their second round pick (Glen Davis). When the Celtics were trying to woo Kevin Garnett and pry him from Minnesota’s icy grip, it was the move for Ray Allen that made Garnett believe the Celtics were serious about building a contender.
Without Ray, there would be no KG. And without either of them, there’s no banner up in the rafters.
It’s been five years since then. Ray Allen has helped the Celtics win countless games. He’s come up big time and time again. He even led me to my favorite internet find… “Clutch Jesus” (a perfect play on his nickname Jesus Shuttlesworth from the movie “He Got Game” and his penchant for drilling mega-huge three-pointers). But the steady march of time leaves countless bodies trampled beneath its boots. And Ray is no exception.
He will be 37 before the month is over. He is coming off of ankle surgery. His skills are declining steadily. He has been left with one, undeniable ability, though: The ability to launch a basketball great distances with great precision. That skill showed itself once again against Miami, where his clutch 3′s were part of why the Celtics damn near beat the eventual champions. We didn’t realize it was an audition.
Fans will vilify him for the treachery of joining a rival. I’ve already seen “Judas Shuttlesworth” about a dozen times since this news broke last night. And while I hate the idea of a wide open Ray in the corner hitting a 3 against the Celtics, I’m not going to hate him for it.
The man was a free agent. After 16 years in the league and three trades, he had earned the right to make his own decision on where he wanted to play. And if part of his reasoning is to stick it to the group that had tried to trade him twice, so be it. I can’t rightfully ask him to be loyal to a team had actually traded him to Memphis, only to have that trade fall apart at the last minute. If we’re going to scream loyalty, then we have to scream it for both sides. And quite frankly, that doesn’t exist.
Welcome to the business side of basketball, folks.
I’m horribly disappointed in how it all played out. I’m sad at the fact that he’s gone, and there really was never anything we could do to stop it. I’m disappointed that personality conflicts couldn’t be worked out between Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.
And I’m disappointed that Ray Allen’s legacy has been tarnished in so many people’s eyes. You are well within your rights to believe what you want to believe. If you want to call him a traitor, or “Judas” or whatever else… that’s your choice and your right.
I’m not going to do it. The man gave his heart and soul here for five years. He never once complained publicly, nor did he ever act as anything besides a professional. The business side took over this summer, and that’s a jarring thing to witness for so many of us.
This is how the sausage is made. This ugly, “I hate this guy,” “you tried to trade me,” “you’re too old to warrant that money” stuff is the business side of the game we love. Ray made a choice that works for him.
I will wish him a fond farewell. I thank him for everything he’s done. I’d also love to wish him the best…
But I can’t.
What I’m wishing is for his jumper to join the rest of him in slowly degenerating now. What I’m wishing is he walks into that Heat locker room, hears the blaring music controlled by LeBron James, notices a level of professionalism a couple of notches below the Celtics locker room, and thinks to himself, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Because the one thing Ray is also going to realize is when business takes you to the rival, you become the enemy once you pull that jersey over your head. So when you come to Boston and 17,000 people boo you mercilessly (after giving him one last ovation… let’s be civil about this), you’ll realize the same thing you’re thinking right now.
It’s just business.