Is It Time for Ray Allen to Walk Away from the NBA for Good?

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Is It Time for Ray Allen to Walk Away from the NBA for Good?
USA TODAY Sports

Selfishly, the hoops world isn't ready to lose Ray Allen. From his picturesque shooting form to his legendary preparation and the unwavering commitment to his craft, the 39-year-old with a chiseled 19-year-old's physique is nothing short of a living legend.

Legends aren't easy to lose. Their departures come with uncomfortable questions about our own mortality, reminders that things in life are neither guaranteed nor permanent.

If it was up to us, Allen would dip into his reserve fuel tank and squeeze out another few years at least. With his three-point rifle as steady as ever, he could make a basketball decision that keeps him playing well into his 40s.

But this isn't our call to make. It's not even a basketball decision.

This is about Allen's life, a life he sounds ready to lead away from the basketball court.

As he told The Courant's Dom Amore, he knows he can still play, but that knowledge isn't enough for him to automatically sign up for his 19th NBA season:

To continue playing, really, the only argument is I can because I'm in great shape. But just because you can doesn't mean you have to. Many people over these last couple of weeks have lobbied for me to continue to play. … My argument for not playing is, I have done a significant amount in my career and I appreciate everything that has come my way and as I've gotten older, I'm 39, there are so many things in life I want to be able to do to affect change — like being around kids full time, which I enjoy.

"That does not sound like a guy who wants to play again," wrote CBS Sports' Matt Moore. "That sounds like a guy who has a hard time imagining not playing."

Granted, Allen didn't take a concrete stance one way or the other. His options to return or retire are both open, but that fact in itself could reveal his true intentions.

Clearly, the seed of potential retirement has been planted. And history has shown that once it's planted, it typically sprouts shortly thereafter.

"You've got to have a mindset that there's no way you're going to retire," former Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said in 2013, via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post. " ... If you're thinking about retiring, you're probably already retired."

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Allen's story doesn't have to follow the same script, but the longer he keeps the door to retirement open, it makes one wonder if he will.

To be clear, the game is not forcing him out. He isn't boosting his ego when he says he knows he can still play.

Last season, he was the fifth-highest scorer on the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat (9.6 points per game). Come playoff time, he became Miami's fourth scoring option (9.3).

He drained 100-plus threes for the 15th consecutive season, a streak only snapped by the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign. The NBA's all-time leader in three-point makes (2,973), he's cashed in an even 40 percent of his long-distance attempts for his entire career.

With a shampoo shooting stroke—lather, rinse, repeat—he's a constant threat to unleash a personal perimeter barrage.

If continuing his career meant only to keep deflating defenders from downtown, he could do that in his sleep.

But it's not that simple.

"It's more than just the game. It's preparing every day," Allen told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports earlier this summer. "That's probably one of the things that I learned from [Michael] Jordan. He said it wasn't the games he wanted to retire from. It was the preparation for each game."

And Allen's preparation is unlike any other.

In 2008, Jackie MacMullan of The Boston Globe shared Allen's meticulous pregame checklist:

His pregame ritual does not waver: a nap from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., a meal of chicken and white rice at 2:30, an arrival time at the gym at precisely 3:45 to stretch. Allen will shave his head, then walk out to the court at exactly 4:30. He will methodically take shots from both baselines, both elbows, and the top of the key.

His clockwork release didn't happen by accident. He methodically reproduces his routine, from his fundamentally sound footwork and squared-up shoulders to the game-changing wrist flicks that have solidified his teams' championship dreams and dashed those of others.

Nothing is left to chance. 

When he wiggles free during a game, he fires up a shot he's taken hundreds of times before.

"So if it doesn't go in," Allen told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, "you are surprised."

Needless to say, there aren't many surprises in Allen's life.

But perhaps those precise patterns will be what drives him away from the hardwood for good. Between that and the travel commitment of this profession, he would need to sacrifice an incredible amount of time he would otherwise have for himself and his family.

It's not like he has anything left to prove inside the lines. He's a 10-time All-Star, a two-time champion and undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer.

Whenever he leaves, his legacy will live on.

"I've played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I'm content with everything that I've done," he told Amore.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As he should be.

The game doesn't get a Ray Allen often.

Forget about his basketball gifts—in addition to his perimeter prowess, he's also had a 20-plus-point scoring average eight different times and once had the springs to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest—just think about Allen the professional. Between his practice sessions to his strict diet to the way he carries himself, he has shown a unique appreciation and respect for the game.

So, yes, we would like to keep him around as long as possible.

But if he is ready to begin his life's next chapter, he should turn the page and get started. And if he winds up making that part of his story as brilliant as the basketball portion, well, that should surprise no one.

Surprises have never been a big part of his legendary tale.

 

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