You’ve heard the oft repeated expression, "when they say it isn't about the money, you know its about the money". Well not in the case of Ray Allen leaving the Celtics. He took less money. How often does that happen? Was it about the chance to win another championship? Maybe.
But I think it was about the Celtics trying to trade Allen during this past season. In fact, late in the season, Allen was called and told he was traded, only to be called back shortly afterwards and told the deal was off. Ray was also no longer a starter near the end of the regular season.
I’ve seen it before. Although it seems that Andy Pettitte has pitched for the Yankees forever, the Yankees lost him in his prime for three years when he signed with the Houston Astros after the 2003 season.
Andy Pettitte wanted some love from the team for whom he had helped win four World Series. He wanted the Yankees to show appreciation of his contributions and to care about trying to re-sign him. The Yankees acted like it was no big deal if they lost Pettitte. And they did lose him.
For the past five seasons, Ray Allen was part of the Big Three that brought back Celtic Basketball—team play and unselfish play—that paid homage to the great Celtic teams of the 1950s 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In the past five years, a new generation of Celtic fans experienced what Celtic Basketball meant.
And for long-time Celtic fans, the long wandering in the desert between 1988 and 2007 when Celtic fans wondered when Celtic Basketball would be found again had thankfully ended. In 2008, Celtic fans reached the promised land after a generation in exile.
Ray Allen has been more than just a great basketball player. This future hall-of-famer is a Celtic great.
Perhaps more than the Truth or the Big Ticket, Ray Allen sacrificed his individual game for the sake of his team. Fans saw a terrific ballplayer who certainly took and made plenty of shots. But before he came to the Celtics, Ray Allen had game. He really had game. He could do it all offensively: shoot, handle the ball and take it all the way to the hoop.
Ray Allen was so good that in 1998, he starred in the Spike Lee movie, He Got Game, opposite Denzel Washington, just a few years after turning pro. He played the protagonist, a star high school basketball player named Jesus Shuttlesworth. After that movie, players and fans sometimes referred to Ray as Jesus because of how good he was on the basketball court.
In the last five years, fans saw many glimpses of his full offensive game. But Ray often did not handle the ball. The ball was usually in Rondo’s or Pierce’s hands. Ray worked tirelessly using picks off the ball to get free, constantly in motion and running around to, more often than not, catch and shoot. He rarely had the luxury of taking the ball and using on-ball screens to get free for a shot or drive to the hoop. He usually deferred to Rondo to bring the ball up court.
Ray Allen has averaged twenty points a game in his whole career, yet in five years with the Celtics he averaged less than seventeen points per game, sacrificing his game for the sake of the team.
With the Celtics, Ray usually guarded the other team’s scoring guard. He was in terrific condition and made it clear that age 36 did not have to be an old number for an athlete any more.
And in this past year’s playoffs, playing hurt and in pain with ankle spurs, on a team decimated by injuries, Ray Allen reminded us that he was a Celtic great.
Although Celtics fans are happy the Big Three were together five years, which in this day and age is like a lifetime, it was s a sad day for Celtic fans when Ray left. It reminded me of a sad day in 1989 when the Celtics traded starting guard Danny Ainge to the Phoenix Suns. It was a shocking trade, very unexpected. The same Danny Ainge that was a starter for the 1986 Celtic championship team.
Ray Allen was the ultimate team player that perhaps felt that general manager Danny Ainge should have appreciated his sacrifices and contributions.
Remember Ray Allen who, after teammate Eddie House was traded, speaking on behalf of his team, said that the Celtics were sad and hurting because they had lost one of their brothers.
Remember Ray Allen whose mom Flo, was a constant presence at Celtics home games. Flo, with that winning smile, those short blond curls atop her head and wearing a number 20 white Celtic jersey. I’ll remember the time, when watching a game on TV after Ray made a great play, that you could read Flo’s lips as she jumped up and said "that’s my boy".
I remember Ray Allen before Game 4 of the Miami playoff series last year. Celtics great and current Celtics announcer Cedric Maxwell looking sharp in his off-white colored suit, who would be working the game up from the court, came down to the court during warm-ups and greeted Ray and Pierce with handshakes.
Ray gave him the biggest smile—ear to ear—I have ever seen on Ray Allen. It seemed to me that the support of a Celtic champion who understood the import of the moment was a shared experience that meant the world to Ray. Celtic generation to Celtic generation.
And finally, I remember being at the Garden, and watching on the big screen as the Celtics were preparing to take the floor. They were anxiously waiting in the hallway outside the locker room as music filled the arena adding to the suspense. Sometimes it was the slow moving and suspenseful song "In the Air Tonight".
The lyrics "[i]’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life" summed up the moment perfectly. Then you heard the drum beat of "da-da da-da da-da da-da bom bom ba" which begged them to seize the moment and come out. There was one player holding the ball, jumping up and down off his toes with his teammates. He was the proud Celtic who led them onto the court. He was Ray Allen.