Ray Allen. Remember him?
Ten-time All-Star. Two-time NBA champion. One of the basketball’s greatest marksmen, the all-time leader in 3-pointers taken and made, scorer of 24,505 points. Source of one of the most memorable shots in league history, from the corner in Miami against San Antonio in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals to snatch triumph from defeat. Hasn’t played a lick in more than two years.
Allen officially announced his retirement as a pro basketball player Tuesday in a piece in The Player’s Tribune and he did so in thoughtful, creative way. He writes an open letter to his 13-year-old self, imparting some of the wisdom he has gleaned in his rather eventful 28 years on the planet since then.
From his roots as a military child through his development as a player in high school, college and the NBA, and more important his maturation as a student, professional, man and father, Allen shares the inner motivations and challenges that drove him to basketball’s heights and prepared him for whatever he pursues next.
Congrats on a brilliant career, Ray! pic.twitter.com/gIotDf8fbb
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 1, 2016
Here are some excerpts, but do yourself a favor and go read the piece in its entirety:
You’ll be the enemy to a lot of people simply because you’re not from around there.
This will be both the toughest and the best thing that will ever happen to you.
What I want you to do is this: Go to the basketball court. Stay at the basketball court. You can build your entire existence there.
The world is much bigger than Dalzell, South Carolina. If you stick to the plan, you’ll see.
In high school, you might think you understand what it takes to be a great basketball player, but you will truly have no idea. When you get to UConn, your coach will show you what hard work really is.
His name is Jim Calhoun. Don’t get on this man’s sh** list.
I could end this letter right here, and you would still probably be excited about what you are going to accomplish in life. But you still have an 18-year NBA career ahead of you.
How do I sum up nearly two decades in the NBA? What do you really need to know? What’s truly important?
You’ll get to play against your heroes: Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler.
You’ll play alongside Hall of Famers: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade.
Sometimes you’ll be afraid.
Sometimes you’ll think you’re out of your league.
But you’ll keep showing up every day, putting in the work.
You’ll put up more than 26,000 shots in your career. Almost six out of 10 won’t even go in. I told you this game was a sonofabitch.
In every locker room you’ll ever be in, everybody will say all the right things. Everybody says they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a title. But this game isn’t a movie. It’s not about being the man in the fourth quarter. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching.
Every day for the rest of your life, you’ll have to choose.
Do you want to fit in, or do you want to embark on the lonely pursuit of greatness?
I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game. I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.
The hell you experience when you get off that bus will be temporary. Basketball will take you far away from that school yard. You will become far more than just a basketball player. You’ll get to act in movies. You’ll travel the world. You will become a husband, and the father of five amazing children.
Now, the most important question in your life isn’t, “Who am I supposed to be?” or even, “What do I have to do to win another championship?”
It’s, “Daddy, guess what happened in math class today?”
That’s the reward that awaits you at the end of your journey.
Go to the court. Stay at the court.
Get your work in, young fella.
Most people will never really get to know the real you. But they’ll know your work.