Ray Allen - The Past, Present, and Future of an All-Time Great

2,560, 2,561, 2,562, 2,563...

The Past

"I always tell people that the record is not just about me it's about the people who have built into who I am and allowed me to get to this place ... Everything I've done is always a [testament] to everybody that I've come in contact with."

Ray Allen is just two - no, scratch that. Ray Allen's family, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, and fans are just two three-pointers away from becoming the all-time leader in three-point field goals.

You see, while it'll be just his name at the top of the list, Allen is a product of each and every encounter he's had with others on the way up. And not just since he arrived in the NBA 16 seasons ago -- this dates back to childhood.

"When I was younger I remember I used to have - I grew up in a military base, and so many guys used to say, 'well you need to get stronger' ... breaking down who I was and criticizing everything that I was," Allen said. "I just, I had a couple people that used to beat up on me all the time and it made me a little bit stronger in the mind and in the body."

Allen learned the meaning of hard work and discipline at an early age. Living on a military base, he certainly had a lot of good examples on the proper way to live his life. When he went to college that only continued further.

"I just learned taking care of myself was the most important thing," he said. "And one of the best things was being at UConn and putting the right foods in my body and the discipline that I got when I was there from Coach [Jim] Calhoun and then the other guys like Kevin Ollie, Donny Marshall, Donyell Marshall - all those guys that built into that program and believed in it."

Allen's successful college career translated into an even more successful pro career on the Milwaukee Bucks. Midway through the 2002-03 season, six and a half years into the league, he was traded to the Seattle Supersonics where he continued to thrive.

Prior to 2005-06 season, he cashed in on a 5-year $80 million contract extension, but not without some hesitation on the Supersonic's part.

"When I left Seattle, I just finished signing the contract the year before, and they didn't want to give me a fifth year," Allen said. "That was part of a linchpin towards me not signing the contract; they only wanted to give four years. They didn't want to give me five, being 34 [years old] you might not be still able to perform. So many people talked about what I might not have been able to do at 34. Those are the things that when I run the treadmill I think about all the time."

On April 7, 2006 he moved into 2nd place all-time in career three-pointer's - one spot behind Reggie Miller. Now playing in his fourth season for the Boston Celtics, and under a new contract, Allen's last day behind Miller could be today.

"You know, the one thing I can say about Reggie is he's been in my corner the last three, four years since I've been here," Allen said. "I catch him in the hallways, catch him in the hotels, and he's always been a great supporter for everything that I've done. He's taught me kind of how to be even a better person. Be humble [in] success when great things are happening to you."

Allen's and Miller's careers overlapped from the time Allen entered the league in 1996, to when Miller retired after the 2004-05 season. In that span, the two faced off 26 times in the regular season. Both being the hard stuck-in-their-way workers, they'd see each other on the court hours before game time.

"Reggie was a guy who believed in getting his work in early. When I came in the gym Reggie was in there or he was just finishing.

"You could tell he's focusing in on trying to get his shots up and working on what he needed to work on to be better for that game that particular evening."

Sound familiar?

The Present

"This is the place to do it, this is the place to be. I heard so many people in the previous game say, ‘Don't go down to Charlotte and break the record.' Everybody wanted to celebrate it. It just seems right just being in this building because so many people have followed me and I have so much fan support. What better place to be than at the Garden?"

It's February 10, 2011. As it stands, the Celtics are in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 38-13 record and await the rival Los Angeles Lakers tonight. It hasn't been easy up to this point though. With injuries throughout the season to practically every player on the team, Allen has been one of the few reliable ones on a nightly basis.

At the age of 35, Allen is having one of the best seasons of his career, even though he's taking far less shots than he did on his previous two teams. His .507 field goal percentage is a career best, .055 better than his career average. And he's never been more accurate from beyond the arc either, shooting at a .462 clip - a staggering .062 better than his career average.

Clearly, age is just a number to Allen - one that increases along with his stats. Credit his consistent improvement to nothing more than having a strong love for the game.

"I'm not a guy that, I don't play because I make this amount of money, I play because I love it and this is my job, this is all I know how to do every day.

"I've never looked at it like I'm at the end of my career and I have to slow down. This is like get better. How can you get better in these situations like field goal percentage, be more efficient. I had ankle surgery so I was thinking even more from the standpoint of getting my strength back so I was trying to build on the upswing like if I was a young guy who just came into the league trying to get better every year."

Ankle surgery was just one of the questions that came along with Allen when the C's traded for him. Being a star in this league on the "downswing" of his career, was Allen ready to change his game?

"I didn't know a lot," Doc Rivers said on what he knew about Allen when the Celtics traded for him. "I liked him as a guy, I heard he was a great guy and all that. I didn't know if he wanted to defend and didn't know if he would buy in. He's done both."

But that's not all Allen did to impress Rivers. Having personally guarded Miller during his time in the league, Rivers knew all about Miller's game and toughness. He immediately saw that in Allen.

"The thing I didn't know the most; I didn't realize he was as tough as he was. Ray Allen, because he shoots the ball, I don't think people think shooters give this label. Reggie was very much the same and both of those guys were tough as nails."

While Allen continues to amaze on the court, it's his off-court teachings that make him that much more valuable to this organization. Always in the ear of his younger teammates, Allen makes it a point to "pay it forward" and not only lead by example, but offer tips along the way.

"Even being six, seven years in the league I'm taking pointers from him like it's my first year," Delonte West said. "It's a blessing to share a locker room with him and share the court with him."

There are some things, though, that Allen can't teach and that others can only hope to one day replicate to an extent.

"There's a lot of guys who can shoot the basketball," explains West, "but if you watch him before he shoots the ball how much energy he puts into losing his man, run left, run right, run back, circle this guy, come back, and then take a long three pointer and everybody in the gym knows is going in. That's a tough shot to shoot. I see guys do that and shoot 15 or 17-footers but to shoot that ball from three-point range after all that movement, you can try it but I don't think you can teach that.".

The Future

"I'm not going to let my age slow me down and think that I have to be pushed out to the pastures like most guys would be in their mid thirties. You can be even better than where you were."

Allen will be 36 years old when his current contract with the Celtics runs out, but there's no chance that will be the last you see of him on the court. With his work ethic and peak physical condition, Allen could play into his 40's - and seems to want to - on the Celtics, too. 

"It's not about me being here and thinking it's the end of my career and I'm older and more tired and I'm not going to lift weights as much."

That's on the contrary actually. With each passing year, Allen seems to focus more and more on his health and wellness. One reason? His family.

"One of the things that I said about my longevity is I wanted my kids to really be able to see and understand what I'm doing, what I am, because I want it to have an impact on them in a positive way. Not that they felt like they had to walk in my shoes, just for them to see this and enjoy it and then me being able to teach them lessons through what I'm doing, bringing them into the gym."

Allen became the person he is today through his upbringing on the military base and learning from the positive role models like his father on site. He wants to give his kids that same experience through his job.

"Right now they're too young so I still think that they have opportunities to grow to seven, eight, nine years old where they're going to be able to see me in the gym and want to come to work and shoot the basketball. And if you don't end up playing in the NBA, at least you'll obtain some of the disciplines and the ideas of how to work, and live, and eat, and be, at that age. Not that I'm pushing it on them, but just see; be a part of it."

For those wondering, Allen's oldest child is six years old, but the youngest is just one. If he's waiting on that one, he'll have plenty of time to extend upon his record setting three-point numbers.

"Say you break the record then three, four, five years down the line some other guy comes up and he gets to that point," Allen said. "Whatever number it is right now that Reggie's number is, I don't want to be two three's over it. I want to keep going and just keep pushing and then whatever that number is going to be it's going to be."

The drive to keep going has never been a problem for Allen.

"The journey is always the beautiful part," he said.

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