By Rich Levine
If you go by his season average, Ray Allens roughly 13 games away from setting a new NBA record for three-pointers in a career. But when that day finally comes, maybe even more impressive than the record itself, will be just how efficiently Allen went about breaking it.
In all, it took Reggie Miller 18 seasons, 1,389 games and more than 47,000 minutes to drain his record 2,560 threes. By contrast, thats three-plus seasons, 300-plus games and nearly 8,000 minutes more than Allens current career marks. And while the next month will narrow that gap a little, it wont be enough to weaken the glaring disparity.
Its pretty astounding, really, to think back on how talented Miller was (before killing his legacy in the broadcast booth), and then to see his career numbers eclipsed so handily. It gives us some perspective on just how legendary Allen actually is. And when you consider the timing, that hes still in ridiculous shape and that hes barely shown signs of slowing down, it seems likely that Allens not only going to break Millers record; hes going to obliterate it.
Over the next few years, Allen should do to career three-pointers what Favre did to consecutive QB starts only without the ego or the painkillers. Plus, Ray wouldnt be caught dead in Wranglers.
And when he eventually retires, Allen will do so as the undisputed long-range king. Throughout NBA history, hell become synonymous with the three-ball like Stockton with the assist, or Tony Allen with the ACL-tearing, after-the-whistle dunk attempt. In terms of NBA legacies, Rays will be all set.
But at the same time, as Allen closes in on three-point immortality, he does so at one small expense. By setting the new standard, and becoming the face of that record, hell unavoidably and unintentionally feed into the biggest misconception about his game.
That hes only a shooter.
Only is the key word here, because dont get me wrong: Ray Allen is obviously a shooter. He is one of the best, most precise and methodical shooters of all time. Relative to the rest of the league, shooting is the skill that sets Allen apart. Its the reason hell one day deliver a speech at Springfield. Its the reason why his great-grandchildren are probably set for life.
But because his shooting is so exceptional, the rest of his game usually suffers by comparison. And while thats only natural, its not necessarily fair.
Ask a casual NBA fan what Allen can do for a team, and theyll say shoot. Back in the summer of 2007, if youd asked most Boston fans what Allen would do for them, theyd have probably said the same.
When Allen first arrived, Celtics Nation thought they were just getting a shooter. A guy who and this is even before Kevin Garnett was in the equation could play off Paul Pierce. Spot up on the perimeter. Hit jumpers. Extend the D. Make a mockery of the foul line. And hes done that. Over the past three-plus seasons, Allen has done that for longer and with more consistency and durability than anyone could have imagined.
You forget now that when the Big 3 was first assembled, Allen was the one we worried about. He was the guy who would eventually break down. He was a 32-year-old shooting guard who was months removed from surgery on both of his ankles, and there was no way either would last.
You forget now that, since then, every time theres been cause or potential reason for the Celtics to shake things up, its Allens name thats thrown into the mix.
Caron Butler. Antawn Jamison. Richard Hamilton. Tyreke Evans. Andres Nocioni. Kevin Martin. Kirk Hinrich. Tyrus Thomas. Monta Ellis. Amare Stoudemire
Those are all guys who Allens been rumored in trades for over the past three years. But hes always survived the talk. Hes almost completely survived the obstacles of old age. And, every season, as the Celtics fight their annual battle with the injury bug, its Allen whos most immune.
Despite everything that was supposed to get in the way, Allens the one whos out there every night. And yeah, the shooting has been there. Its been inconsistent in small stretches, but for the most part its been as impressive and fascinating as you ever imagined. Its lived up to every bit of the hype.
But in getting to watch Allen every night, his shooting abilitys become more familiar, and less of a novelty. And as a result, weve been able to take a step back and find an appreciation for the greater aspects of his game that typically get lost in the obsession with his range.
Over the last three-plus years, weve seen a guy whos not only one of the deadliest shooters in the league, but also one of the most creative scorers.
He can score in 15 different ways. He doesnt hang on the periphery and wait for a kick out; he takes the opposing shooting guard and runs him off picks and into the ground. He gets to the rim or at least around it and finished with surprising consistency. Hes great in transition. Hell make shots fading left, fading right, or fading straight back. He has at least five different release point on his mid-range J. Hell take you for a baseline reverse. Hell stop short in the paint and swish a floater. Once in a while, youll get dunked on.
Is he headed to any All-Defensive teams? No. But aside from a few tough matchups over the years, hes never been a liability. You rarely caught yourself thinking, They gotta do something . . . Rays getting killed out there!
He doesnt make mistakes. Seriously, not counting cold shooting nights (because those are going to happen once in a while), how many times over the last three-plus years have you actually been frustrated or upset with Ray Allen? Guarantee its less than anyone else on the team. Hes a chameleon. A guy wholl go from third or fourth option with the starters to primary scorer and point guard without breaking stride.
In terms of clutch, hes right up there with Pierce, which puts him right up there with anyone in the league. You could argue that Allen's actually been more clutch than Pierce since the Big 3 got together. Hes a calming force. No matter what the situation, or whats on the line, youre at peace when the balls in his hands.
Hes a great shooter. Yeah, we knew that, and weve seen that. And judging by those last two sentences, some of us have maybe been a little spoiled by it.
But just as well, as much as he's a great shooter, we've all come to know him as a great player
And realize that the soon-to-be NBA Three-Point King deserves to be remembered for so much more.