NEW YORK — If you stick around the league long enough, you get a chance to accomplish quite a bit.
While Ray Allen is proud of the mark he's made with his play—making more three-pointers than anyone else—he's trying to leave a legacy in other ways.
This month, you may see the result of his sweat...
In the shirts that NBA players are sweating in.
Allen collaborated with the league on the design of the special shooting shirts for February, shirts that feature images of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Bill Russell.
This is the culmination of a career-long quest.
"I’ve been trying to make noise about it for the longest time, ever since I was in Milwaukee," Allen told Bleacher Report recently. "Because when it came to Black History Month, I was always the guy to try to get the guys to do little video montages, during halftime, during timeouts, where we would read about one of the black heroes of ours, a great civil rights activist, or someone who was a pioneer back in the day that helped push along black culture and improve the civil liberties of black people."
And there was a problem, in his view.
"It got to the point where I would read all of them, because nobody else would do it," Allen said. "I always used to have a gripe with the way this game is, and how many young black men are playing this game, and how many have benefited from the civil rights movement. But we never talk about Black History Month, there is never anything done inside the (other) arenas. So I tried that, every place that I went, to at least have some type of moment. Let’s not have Black History Month and let the moment pass by."
Before this season, he was in the process of promoting another of his pet causes—diabetes research—when an opening emerged. He wanted the league to print shooting shirts for November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month, especially in light of the league's NBA Fit initiative, and because so many NBA players have family members who have dealt with diabetes.
But there wasn't time to get the shirts done.
So he turned his attention to February.
"I said the next phase is Black History Month. We need to make sure that we have awareness of, and pay homage to (the month)," Allen said. "Because I know we have MLK Day and guys wear shoes. But I see these shirts, for NBA Fit, for Chinese New Year, for Latin Night, but we never talk about Black History Month."
Allen was insistent upon the importance of inclusion. He worked quickly with a friend to create the design, and they worked with the league to make sure it was appropriate for everyone.
"The shirt doesn’t have to be a black shirt," Allen said. "One of my messages was, Black History Month is not just about black people. Black History Month is about how black people have fought to improve the lives of not only black people, but the world over.
"Martin Luther King fought for the civil liberties of all people. That’s something that we need to continue to believe, and understand that. People in the Middle East right now are fighting, and they are paying homage to Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, they are following those doctrines, and how he fought for equality for all people. So that’s something that we need to talk about right in the forefront."
Players won't wear them every night, and they won't wear them on the floor once the ball's tipped. But on some nights, fans will spot them during warmups.
And if it starts a dialogue, that's all Allen was seeking.
"It’s something," Allen said. "It's not what we would ultimately love to see, but we got something done. And there are certain things in NBA cities that I would like the players to go out and do, if they are wearing the jersey, and if they are doing montages of our different leaders over the years. To talk about them and create that awareness."
And if people talk about these leaders' legacies, that becomes part of his.
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