“James catches, puts up a three……won’t go…rebound Bosh, back out to Allen. His three pointer……BAAAAANG!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Every great player has that one moment that will always be played when they talk about him on TV. One play you don’t have to describe specifically and everyone will know which one you are talking about. For Ray Allen, that play is definitely his 3 pointer in game 6 of the 2013 Finals. It wasn’t a game-winning shot, but it’s THE SHOT. The same way Kyrie scored the 3 to win the ring for Cleveland yet THE PLAY of that series is LeBron’s chase-down block. Very often the most important play of a game or a series is not the last one in a close game.
You would assume Ray Allen was ecstatic when he scored that shot. He just tied the game, got the Heat back in the series. Yet after listening to Allen on ‘’The Full 48’’ we got a glimpse into a world different from what we imagine it to be. In his new book, Allen describes himself as ‘’ mildly OCD’’. Describing him a creature of habit would be a candidate for the understatement of the year. All players have routines that help them get ready for a game. Allen took it to another level.
His pregame routine was supposedly one of the things that created friction in the Celtics locker room while he played there. He would arrive very early to go through all his shooting drills and warm-ups. By the time he was ready other players only started to arrive. After finishing his routine he was ready to talk to the press, give interviews, etc. That didn’t go so well with Kevin Garnett who just started his routine, but there was no chance that Ray would change.
‘’I had these demons in my head that on a given day before a game you are just sitting here thinking ‘What if I don’t make another shot?’ or ‘What if I go to the free-throw line and I’m just not ready and I get nervous?’ so I’m sitting here at home at night thinking like ‘What am I gonna do?’ so I get up and I go to the gym you know, sometimes at night. Definitely first thing in the morning I’m like ‘I gotta hurry and get to the gym.’ just get rid of this, it's like an itch, you have to scratch it.”
This isn’t the thought process of a rookie who will only get one chance, 2 min of garbage time, and if he doesn’t make it may be months before he gets a chance again if he gets another chance at all. This is an NBA champion, one of the greatest shooters of all time doubting himself, obsessing over every possible scenario and practicing until he has every variation of every scenario broken down and perfected. You think I’m exaggerating? ‘’I said let me work on every single thing possible that I would do in a basketball game and perfect it so when I’m in a game I don’t guess, you know, I just kinda have it figured out.’’. Doesn’t sound like much fun being in his head. In the same interview, Allen describes how he does the same thing with golf these days. While you or I would probably just play a few rounds, hang out with friends and go home, Allen shows up 90 minutes early to work on his swing and his cadence.
That’s the side of greatness we don’t see and let's be honest, don’t really want to see. Every day grind these guys go through. Good players have a few strong seasons, a few years when they reached their peak. Greatness is doing it all the time. To have that focus not for years, but for decades. The truly great players have that annoying trait we all wish we had…they never cut themselves any slack.
2016 Finals, Game 6, 5.6 seconds to go, when that ball went through the rim the first thing Ray Allen probably felt wasn’t joy, it was probably a relief. A deep exhale knowing he won’t have that nagging ‘’if only I did a 100 more shots yesterday’’.