Archive 75

Ray Allen

By John Schuhmann·

It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest shots in NBA history. Maybe the biggest. It took the 2013 Larry O'Brien trophy from the hands of one team and, ultimately, put it in the arms of another.

One play doesn't define a player as good as Ray Allen, who was much more than just a great 3-point shooter. But in a way, the 3-pointer that tied Game 6 of the 2013 Finals with 5.2 seconds left in regulation is a great introduction into the work ethic that went into making Allen one of the best 75 players in NBA history.

The elevation. The shooting form. It was picture perfect, and it was executed under as much pressure as anyone has ever felt shooting a basketball.

It was the result of countless hours of preparation. Allen was in the lane, trying to get the offensive rebound when teammate Chris Bosh came down with it. Instinctively, Allen backed up to the 3-point line, but he never looked down to see where his feet were, even though there is only 36 inches of space between the 3-point line and the sideline in the corners of an NBA floor.

Less than a year earlier, when Allen first joined the Miami Heat, coach Erik Spoelstra noticed the then-37-year-old, already the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, starting a shooting drill by laying down in the middle of the floor. He would then get up, backpedal to the 3-point line, catch a pass and shoot. Spoelstra, with 15 years of NBA experience at that point, had never seen that before.

"That seemed like a crazy drill," Spoelstra would recall when Allen announced his retirement in 2016. "Why would he do something like that -- lay down in the middle of the floor?"

The drill trained Allen for second-chance, scramble situations, just like the one he found himself in on June 18, 2013. The Heat needed a 3 to save their season and Ray Allen was the perfect man for the job.

"I was hoping I was where I needed to be, but I wasn't quite sure," Allen said afterward. "But just from years of shooting ... I got to my spot."

Nothing but net. Game 6 went to overtime, where Allen made a big defensive play in the closing seconds. Two nights later, the Heat were champions.

With his father in the military, Allen moved around as a child, even living abroad. After three years at the University of Connecticut, where he won the 1996 Big East championship with an iconic game-winner against Allen Iverson and Georgetown, Allen was selected with the No. 5 pick in the '96 Draft. The pick was that of the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Allen was immediately traded to Milwaukee for No. 4 pick Stephon Marbury.

Allen was an immediate contributor for the Bucks, starting 81 games and averaging 13.4 points as a rookie. He shot 39% from 3-point range that first year, but Allen was much more than a shooter early in his career. He was an athletic scorer, who competed in the dunk contest as a rookie.

Allen didn't miss a game in his first five seasons. In Year 3, the Bucks reached the playoffs. In Year 4, Allen was an All-Star for the first time. In Year 5, Milwaukee won 52 games and, with Allen averaging 25.1 points on an effective field goal percentage of 56.3% in the postseason, reached Game 7 of the conference finals.

Allen was traded to Seattle in Feb. 2003. He was an All-Star in all four of his full seasons with the Sonics, averaging 24.6 points over those four years and setting a single-season record for 3-pointers made (269) in 2005-06.

While he was with the Sonics, Allen talked about his never-changing pre-game routine: "My confidence in my game comes from my preparation."

Over his 11 seasons with Milwaukee and Seattle, Allen was a part of eight top-10 offenses. But his teams reached the postseason in only four of those 11 seasons.

Allen reached the top of the NBA when he joined Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston in 2007. Allen accepted a smaller offensive role and the Celtics had the league's No. 1 defense. They went on to win the franchise's 17th championship, with Allen scoring 26 points (making seven of his nine 3-point attempts) in the series-clinching Game 6 against the Lakers. He played in more than twice as many playoff games in his five years in Boston (91) as he did in his first 11 years in the league (37).

And in 2012, Allen would move to Miami, where he would reach The Finals in each of his final two seasons. He mostly came off the bench in those two years with the Heat, but still shot 40% from 3-point range and, of course, drained the biggest shot in Heat history. Allen is one of six players who have shot 40% or better on at least 300 postseason 3-point attempts, having shot slightly better in the playoffs (40.1%) than he did in the regular season (40.0%).

The 2013 shot was, obviously, not the first big 3-pointer of Allen's career.

While he's one of the best shooters in NBA history, Allen was a versatile scorer and had some huge games in his career: 47 points with the Bucks against Charlotte, a career-high 54 with the Sonics against Utah, 51 in a triple-overtime classic in Chicago in the 2009 playoffs, and, at the age of 38, 25 points against the Rockets.

Allen was also one of the best interviews in the league, appreciative of those who came before him and for what the game has given him.

He was a 10-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection, two-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist. He's 25th on the all-time scoring list and second all-time in 3-pointers made. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Ray Allen should be remembered for more than just one shot. But if you're going to be remembered for one shot, having it be the most clutch shot in NBA history (given the circumstances) isn't a bad deal.