On Tuesday, shooting guard Ray Allen officially announced his retirement from the NBA after a remarkable 18-year career in the league.
The future Hall of Famer walks away with career averages of 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 89.4 percent from the free-throw line.
He’s a two-time champion, 10-time All-Star and a gold medalist. Allen is arguably the greatest shooter ever to play the game, as evidenced by the fact that he ranks first in NBA history in three-pointers made with 2,973. The next closest is Reggie Miller at 2,560 threes, and the closest active player is Jason Terry at 2,169.
“I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game,” Allen wrote on The Players Tribune in a letter to his younger self. “I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.
“Now, the most important question in your life isn’t, ‘Who am I supposed to be?’ or even, ‘What do I have to do to win another championship?’ It’s, ‘Daddy, guess what happened in math class today?’ That’s the reward that awaits you at the end of your journey.”
Now that his playing career is officially over, what’s next for Allen?
Back in June of 2014, the Heat had an NBA Finals rematch against the San Antonio Spurs. After the Heat defeated the Spurs the year before, San Antonio fared much better this time around and ended up winning the series.
With Miami on the brink of elimination, I had a lengthy conversation with Allen about life after basketball. At the time, I had no idea that Allen was days away from playing his last NBA game. I thought he’d return for at least one more season, and many people around the NBA assumed the same (including general managers and coaches). Even Allen admitted he wasn’t sure he was ready to retire.
Remember, Allen was still playing at a high level and filling an important role for Miami. During the 2013 NBA Finals win over the Spurs, Allen hit what he called the biggest shot of his career in Game 6 of the series. His three-pointer with just five seconds left forced overtime, led to a Miami victory and the Heat ultimately hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy after winning Game 7. It gave Allen his second ring (his first came with the Boston Celtics in 2008), and a signature shot that will be remembered forever.
The 41-year-old flirted with the idea of signing with a contender for one more season, and plenty of teams reached out to express interest over the last two years. He continued to go through rigorous workouts in case he got the itch and decided to play, but he also enjoyed spending more time with his family, being able to golf much more than ever before and not having to follow such a strict structure (which he had done his entire life, first as a military kid and then as an NBA player).
While teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and others tried to recruit him – with LeBron James even meeting him in person – it became clear that Allen wasn’t all that interested. His final campaign was the 2013-14 season with the Heat, in which he averaged 9.6 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the field.
During our conversation in 2014, Allen told me that he would like to be a head coach someday. However, just as he wrote in his letter, his family will play a huge factor in this decision (particularly when it comes to the timing of his post-playing career). He said that he doesn’t want to go the Jason Kidd or Derek Fisher route – entering coaching straight out of retirement. Instead, he’d like to wait a bit and spend time with his children before entertaining coaching opportunities.
“As far as me coaching when I finish, I couldn’t see myself going from this to then being a head coach [right away],” Allen told Basketball Insiders in 2014. “I have four boys at a young age and I would love to have an immediate impact on them where I’m not always gone every day. If I went into coaching, then that would really take me away from them and it’d be even worse than what I’m doing now [playing]. I would much rather spend my time doing that with them.”
With that said, Allen did say coaching is something he’s interested in doing down the road.
“I like trying to get people to realize their full potential and getting people to be better and motivating people to be better than what they were,” Allen told me in 2014. “I’m a coach already. I think if you look at the guys around this [Miami] locker room, there are so many guys that come from so many walks of life, so many college programs and so many different mindsets when it comes to the game, you could see that each one of these guys can be a coach in the locker room. And that’s what makes this team pretty good, because the IQ is pretty high. We also have kids and most of our kids play and [we] coach them.”
As Allen mentioned, he has always viewed himself as a coach on the floor. Throughout his career, he earned a reputation for his rigorous workouts, high basketball IQ and commitment to winning. He believes his experiences as a player could help him if he eventually makes the transition to coaching.
“A lot of the guys are ‘coaches’ when they play; they’re extensions of the coach,” Allen said in 2014. “When you do step on the sidelines and you end up watching the game, really coaching sometimes is standing out of the way. Coaching sometimes is just giving a person just a couple of tidbits of information and letting them go out there and find themselves. Each player requires a different type of coaching or style of coaching. You can’t be a tyrant coach, where it’s your way and it’s only your way always around the clock, especially in professional sports. In college maybe [you can be] a little bit more that way. But in the NBA, you have to mold your personality to what you think each player may need.
“It’s just like in life, communication is the biggest key in any relationship. I think to make it in this 15-man environment and then to be a coach or to deal with the coaches, you have to understand relationships and you have to be able to communicate real well.”
Allen has been in two movies (He Got Game and Harvard Man) and he used a film analogy to describe what it’s like for an individual to go from playing to coaching.
“It’s the same as actors ending up directing,” Allen said in 2014. “You’ve been around long enough on one side of the camera. Not everybody could do it, but you pay attention while you’re acting or while you’re playing, you pay attention to it and gather all of the information you can.”
Allen has certainly had some talented coaches to gather information from, including George Karl, Nate McMillan, Doc Rivers and Erik Spoelstra among others.
It’s unfortunate to see the 41-year-old Allen retire, as he joins superstars like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett among others who also walked away from the game recently.
However, don’t be surprised if Allen is back on your television screen in a few years, stalking the sideline, clutching a clipboard and barking instructions to his players.
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