Sometime early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I tweeted out the following stat: “Last two years in the playoffs, Ray Allen's shooting 32 percent from three and 78 percent from the foul line. No bueno.”
And as you can imagine, that opened the door for all kinds of sympathy from Celtics fans. My favorite response came from @Lunworks who came back with:
Anyway, I’d never really thought about that question until Lunworks threw it out there. In large part because Allen’s still playing and might be for another few years. But with the Celtics done for the season, and the other two members of the Big 3 currently listed as “questionable” for another run, why not take a second to consider the future of Allen’s jersey? At least until the next Paul Pierce rumor surfaces.
So first of all, let’s just state the obvious: Ray Allen is an automatic Hall of Famer. In my book, one of 11 active locks in the NBA. The others are Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili.
Actually, we should probably throw Tony Parker in that group, too.
After that, there’s a healthy list of other legitimate candidates: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are all within striking distance. Vince Carter is a wild card. Grant Hill might sneak in based on his college rings and potential future success as an executive. What about Derrick Rose? Pau Gasol? Russell Westbrook? Kyrie Irving? Rajon Rondo? HAMED HADDADI?!
There are arguments to be made and seasons to be played, but with those first 12, the argument’s over. They’re headed to the Hall. And of the 12, 11 have already carved out a spot in at least one arena’s rafters.
Do I have to name them? Probably not, but here goes anyway:
Kobe (Lakers), Duncan (San Antonio), LeBron (Miami, maybe Cleveland, plus wherever he plays next), Wade (Miami), Dirk (Dallas), Pierce (Boston), Garnett (Boston, Minnesota), Kidd (potentially Brooklyn/NJ and Dallas), Nash (Phoenix), Manu (San Antonio) and Parker (San Antonio).
The only question mark is Ray.
For starters, he may win another ring(s) in Miami, but obviously won’t do enough to have his number retired. That honor is reserved for true Heat legends like Michael Jordan and Dan Marino.
Then there’s Milwaukee, where Allen spent the first six-and-a-half years of his career, but never achieved legendary status. On one hand, he led the Bucks to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, which is the closest they’ve been to a ring since losing to the Celtics in the 1974 NBA Finals. That counts for something. But he’s also only the ninth leading scorer in franchise history, and he’s already spent more than a decade playing elsewhere. If the Bucks retire Allen’s number, then Glenn Robinson will have to go up. Michael Redd, too. And while that’s all certainly possible, it’s no where close to guaranteed.
Then there’s Seattle, a franchise that Allen spent only five-and-a-half years playing for, and — an important note — doesn’t currently exist. At some point, we all expect the Sonics to come back, at which point they’ll probably go on a number retiring-spree in the name of nostalgia and rebuilding tradition. You figure Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton will be the first honorees, and it’s fair to wonder if Ray might eventually get the same treatment. Then again, Allen’s not even a Top 10 scorer in Sonics history; over his five-plus years with the team, they registered only one plus-.500 season. Ehhhh . . .
On paper, Boston makes the most sense. It just does. This is where Allen won his first title. And as a star, not just a random role player. While the three-point record is Allen’s individual legacy, as a teammate he’ll be remembered as a Celtic. As a part of Boston’s Big 3 — the trio that ended the franchise’s 22-year drought. But as they say (maybe?), that’s why numbers aren’t retired on paper.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where No. 20 is raised to the Garden rafters. Things are still so bitter, and from a Boston perspective, it will only get worse if/when he picks up that title with Miami.
But as time goes on, and we reflect on this era, I can’t shake the feeling that No. 20 will eventually find its way up onto a banner next to 34 and 5. Just like Terry Francona said in his return to Fenway: “Time has a way of making things (better). You’re able to think about the things that you’re fonder of.”
And as crazy as that sounds today, Boston will get there with Ray. In the end, his five years and one title and role in restoring Celtic Pride will outweigh his one controversial and polarizing decision.
At least in my opinion.