Ray Allen's return to Beantown was a confusing one.
In his first time entering the TD Garden since spurning the Boston Celtics for the Miami Heat, Allen was greeted with both a chorus of boos and cheers. Fans were clearly torn between all he had done over the previous five seasons and all he now stood for.
But while the Boston faithful struggled as a collective to assume a definitive stance on his return, Allen had no such qualms.
After the Heat fell to the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics, 100-98 in double overtime, the sharpshooter didn't hesitate in admitting that his jersey may have changed, but his loyalties didn't:
I'll always remember the big games we played in, the big games we won. And I'll always know that I'll always be a Celtic in my mind. Regardless of what anybody else says.
Having spent five seasons donning Boston green while also laying claim to his first (and only) NBA title, I'd like to say I wasn't surprised by Allen's postgame sentiments. But I am.
Though the shooting guard has never shied away from speaking fondly of his time with the Celtics, he didn't exactly leave on the best terms. From dodging Doc Rivers' calls to a deteriorated relationship with Kevin Garnett to a nonexistent one with Rondo, Allen didn't hesitate to burn bridges as he took his talents to South Beach.
He left so swiftly that some couldn't help but conclude he hardly grappled over his decision to leave at all. Clearly, his ego had allowed him to move on.
And yet, there was some solace to be found in his words that came on the heels of a standing ovation (laced with jeers) during a tribute video the Celtics showed to pay homage to Allen's half decade of service.
His reflective state was a public acknowledgement that he still bled green, that a part of his heart would always remain in Boston, regardless of whom he played for. And for the very first time, we could actually appreciate how hard Allen's decision to leave actually was.
Allen doesn't play for the Celtics, but they're not just any other team, nor are they a nemesis he takes exception to.
They're his team. The one he spent five years leaving everything on the court for. The one that brought him an NBA title. The one that he nearly began a dynasty with.
And the same one he truly never left.
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