CROMWELL, Conn. – Ray Allen has proven to be quite the winner on the college and professional basketball fronts.
Saturday at the Breakfast With The First Tee of Connecticut before the third round of the Travelers Championship, Allen proved to be quite a polished, articulate and inspirational speaker eager to offer advice to any child or adult willing to listen.
About 150 folks were on hand for a 45-minute chat with the best men’s hoopster in UConn history who helped the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat win NBA titles and the United States capture gold in the 1995 and 2000 Summer Olympics and 2003 FIBA Americas Championship. Those were the most major achievements during an 18-year NBA career that led to Allen becoming the first former UConn men’s player to be elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Allen, former NBA stars Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill and 10 others will be inducted Sept. 7.
“I’m about community and family because we all want to grow old and enjoy life,” Allen said. “In this country, everyone has an opportunity to get ahead, and I’m a great example of that.”
Allen was the special guest at the breakfast and autographed dozens of his book “From the Outside. My Journey Through Life and The Game I Love” that was released March 27. The title reflects Allen being the NBA’s all-time career three-point shot leader in the regular season and playoffs thanks largely to a major-league work ethic that he developed at UConn and carried into a NBA career that included 10 First Team All-Star selections.
“If I can go back, it would be to 1993 when I decided to go to the University of Connecticut,” said Allen, 42, who grew up in,Dalzell, S.C. “A lot of people in South Carolina wondered why I chose UConn, but I had a chance to compete and get better. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to go to UConn. In every segment of my life, I think of how important that decision was for me.”
Allen credited longtime UConn coach Jim Calhoun, a driving force in all aspects of life, with helping him strive to be the best that he could be.
“I’m only a reflection of the people around me,” Allen said. “If I hadn’t left South Carolina for Connecticut, I would never be where I am today.”
In 1995–96, his final college season, Allen was a first-team All-American and won the Big East Player of the Year award. He finished his UConn career third on the career scoring list with 1,922 points and set a single-season school record by connecting on 115 three-pointers in 1995–96. In 2001, Allen was named honorary captain of the 25-member UConn All-Century Basketball Team. On February 5, 2007, his name and number were honored at Gampel Pavilion on the UConn campus during the “Huskies of Honor” ceremony at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Syracuse.
Besides being a 10-time NBA All-Star, Allen won numerous league awards and was USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year in 1995. . A year later, he was the fifth pick in the NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who immediately traded him and Andrew Lang to the Milwaukee Bucks for the rights to the fourth pick, Stephon Marbury.
Allen remained with the Bucks midway through the 2002-03 season, when he was dealt to the Seattle SuperSonics with former UConn teammate Kevin Ollie, Ronald Murray and a conditional first-round pick for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason. Then on June 28, 2007, Allen was headed back to New England, as he and Glen Davis were traded to the Celtics for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the fifth pick, Jeff Green. Not long after that deal, the Celtics acquired Timberwolves star forward Kevin Garnett to play with Allen and Paul Pierce. Upon joining the Celtics, Allen changed his jersey number to 20 because Pierce was wearing 34.
On June 17, 2008, in the series-ending Game 6, Allen tied an NBA Finals record with seven three-pointers in the Celtics’ 131–92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers for his first NBA title. Allen rejected a two-year, $12 million offer by the Celtics and signed a three-deal with the Miami Heat, who were limited to their mid-level exception amount of slightly more than $3 million per season. But it proved to be plenty profitable for Allen when he, fellow free-agent signee LeBron James and standout guard Dwayne Wade led the Heat to the NBA title in 2013. Allen’s last-ditch three-pointer in Game 6 is regarded as one of the most memorable plays in NBA history and enabled the Heat to get to a Game 7 and win the championship.
Allen finished his NBA career with 24,505 points (18.9 average), 5,272 rebounds (4.1) and 4,361 assists (3.4). After retiring in 2014, Allen transitioned into more acting. He’s best known for his role as basketball prodigy Jesus Shuttleworth in “He Got Game” in 1998. Allen’s performance alongside legendary actor Denzell Washington, his imprisoned father in the movie, was highly praised by critics, and the name was borrowed as Allen’s basketball nickname.
Allen and his wife, singer/actress Shannon Walker Williams, have five children, all of whom were at the breakfast. He has served as NBA spokesperson for the Junior NBA/Junior WNBA program and was selected as NBA Spokesman for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. He also has the “Ray of Hope” Foundation to assist charities in several communities.
Allen played in the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am on Wednesday and was asked about Calhoun saying he would Allen’s No. 34 to be retired, along with the No. 50 of Rebecca Lobo, the only former UConn women’s player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“I’d be honored, but that’s totally up to the university,” Allen said. “I’ve not had my jersey retired anywhere I’ve played. It’s all about what you’ve done, what you mean to them and how they feel about you. So, that would be a call on their behalf.”
Allen said his “Dream Foursome” on the golf course would be Tiger Woods, Ricky Fowler and Dustin Johnson. Just the mere thought of such a consideration is a far, far cry from being named “The Player Most Likely To Become Obscure” after the 1995 NBA draft.
“I’ve always believed that greatness isn’t doing the spectacular,” Allen said. “Greatness is doing the simple things over and over. And it’s all about teamwork and how to win in terms of the team and being selfless.”
As Ray Allen has definitively demonstrated in many ways over many fronts for many years.