Ray Allen says childhood pain led him to greatness on the court

Ray Allen was known just as much for his meticulous work ethic as he was for his silky-smooth jump shot. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Ray Allen was known just as much for his meticulous work ethic as he was for his silky-smooth jump shot. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(WTNH)–Ray Allen made a name for himself as a hard worker.

The 18-year NBA veteran was known for his 1,000-shot pregame routine and his meticulous attention to detail just as much as his seemingly “God-given” jump shot, as beautiful and natural as Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing.

In announcing his retirement in a “Letter to My Younger Self” on The Players’ Tribune, Allen gave us a glimpse into the personality that made him great.

UConn fans will forever remember Ray's time with the Huskies. Twenty years after his departure, he's still regarded as the greatest player ever to come out of Storrs. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
UConn fans will forever remember Ray’s time with the Huskies. Twenty years after his departure, he’s still regarded as the greatest player ever to come out of Storrs. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

He talked about his childhood as the son of an Air Force dad, moving around from Northern California to Germany to Oklahoma to England to Southern California before finally settling in South Carolina.

He recalled the pain of trying to fit in at that South Carolina school, and how the kids would tease him beacuse he “spoke proper” and didn’t act like everyone else.

That, Allen said, led him to the basketball court.

It was there that he found a niche that would lead him to an almost two-decade run of success. He made an immediate impact at UConn, impressing Jim Calhoun with the lack of sweat on his jersey after his first practice in Storrs, and going on to author arguably the greatest career in Huskies history.

His NBA career was even better–a 10-time All-Star, two-time champion, and owner of the all-time record for career three-pointers.

Allen hasn’t played since 2014, when he drained a corner three with just seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, saving the Miami Heat’s season and allowing them to win the title in Game 7 a couple of days later.

He entertained offers to come back over the last two years, but ultimately decided against a return, all the while keeping himself in impeccable shape and continuing his fastidious workout routine.

Maybe the most telling anecdote from his Players Tribune story on Tuesday was the one about him waking up the morning after winning the 2014 NBA title with the Heat, tiptoeing around family and friends who had crashed at his place after celebrating, and deciding to take a drive.

He ended up at the dentist office.

Connecticut's Ray Allen dunks the ball over Fairfield's Meishay Gattis in the first half of the UConn-Fairfield basketball game at Storrs, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 23, 1995. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Connecticut’s Ray Allen dunks the ball over Fairfield’s Meishay Gattis in the first half of the UConn-Fairfield basketball game at Storrs, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 23, 1995. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

“This is what success looks like for you,” Allen wrote. “You’re the kind of guy who goes to the dentist the morning after winning an NBA title.”

“I know, man. I know.”

Even though he spent years in the public eye, starring in the NBA as well as Spike Lee’s “He Got Game,” a lot of people feel like they still don’t know the real Ray Allen.

He is quiet, never eager to bring any extra attention to himself, never in need of a media scrum to stroke his ego. Maybe that comes from his childhood, just trying to fit in despite finding an outlet that made him stand out.

“Most people will never really get to know the real you,” Allen wrote in the article. “But they’ll know your work.”

That’s probably the perfect way to describe Ray Allen.

Happy retirement, Ray.

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