Thursday, June 28, 2012
Come On, Ray
Ray Allen has spent the golden years of his NBA career proving to everyone that, apart from having a deadly jumper, he also is a class act. He has represented the Boston Celtics organization, his teammates, and himself with nothing but the utmost class over the past few years. He seems to the play basketball with respect for his opponents and, more importantly, respect for the game. With all of the positive ammunition he's built up at the end of his likely-Hall-of-Fame career, why would he ruin it by joining the Miami Heat?
First off, let me congratulate the Miami Heat. Despite the fact that their presence in the playoffs made me root harder than ever for teams like the Knicks, Pacers, Celtics, and Thunder, it would behoove me not to acknowledge that Miami was clearly the best team in the league these playoffs. There were no lucky breaks: they won fair and square.
Last week, only days after the Heat clinched the title, it was reported that Ray Allen had interest in leaving Boston to play for the Miami Heat. I'm not going to pretend that I don't understand the allure of joining the Heat. They just won a championship and appear to be firing on all cylinders, ready to win more. They also have the current best basketball player in the world. Regardless of your personal feelings about LeBron James, I suppose that — as an athlete — it would be nice to play alongside him before the curtains close on your career.
However, I still can't help but feel like Ray Allen is going against nearly everything he has stood for as an NBA player by considering signing a contract to play for Miami. Let's consider this.
On the positive side, joining the Heat would likely help Allen highlight the best parts of his own game. He has lost a step in his later years, so giving LeBron another outside jumper to utilize would help pad his own stats until his retirement.
Also, all-too-often players prioritize money or personal glory over winning as a team. Making this decision would prove that Ray Allen's priority is team glory — not personal accolades.
That's where the pros end, though.
On the other hand, joining this team would be surrendering. As a former athlete myself, I always despised the, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. When a team ousted me, I never felt like joining them. I just wanted to beat them even more. By leaving Boston to join Miami, Ray Allen is holding up a white flag and taking the easy road.
This decision would also greatly alter the public perception of Allen. The importance of winning aside, he would end his career — much like Karl Malone — as that guy. What I'm referring to is his career will forever have the asterisk that comes with players who gave up and tried to take a shortcut to victory. What's so puzzling about this to me as that Allen has already won! If he was without a ring, this might make sense, but as it stands I can't fully respect the leap to the Heat.
Lastly though — and most importantly — by switching to the Heat, Ray Allen is forever etching in stone that he is a 2012-type NBA player, not one who respects the old-school elements of the league. Would anyone say that Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Reggie Miller — and so many others — were quitters? They all played over a decade in the NBA without earning a ring. Do you think that the Bulls or the Rockets would've welcomed them onto their respective rosters during title runs? Of course! But that's not how the game works.
Professional sports shouldn't be about allegiances and collusion. They shouldn't feature players who "team up" to win titles because it's not as interesting as watching rivalries bud. Can you imagine how boring the NBA would have been in the late-80s if Larry Bird or Magic Johnson had said, "You know what? I bet we could win more titles if we played together." What a terrible tragedy it would have been to lose out on those matchups!
Michael Jordan was heavily courted by Patrick Ewing and the Knicks in the early '90s. Had he left the Bulls, forget the six titles, but worse — forget those amazing games against the Knicks. So many of those games have become a part of Jordan's legacy. He would have lost out on those pieces if he wore the blue and orange.
My point is simple: if Ray Allen wants to end his career with a championship, I can't blame him — just do it the right way. There are several teams that are close to beating Miami. Wouldn't it be more fun to complement Kevin Durant/Michael Westbrook, Danny Granger, and company, or even Derrick Rose and dethrone Miami during your ride off into the sunset?
None of these would be a guarantee, but nobody would fault Ray Allen for trying. Nobody his going to remember his career by saying, "He could've won more." Rather, by joining the Heat, people might end their praise of him by saying, "His last title was with the Heat, though."
Perhaps it's just my bitterness at watching shortcuts work. For the Heat, it took one more year than expected, but their team ultimately took a shortcut that would have been frowned upon in NBA years' past. All I'm saying is that I hope Ray Allen does not contribute to this current Facebook trend of "friending" your conquerors and, instead, takes it upon himself to make the effort to go out on top the right way.