I really liked Ray Allen. I enjoyed rooting for him, believing in him, and watching him come up big when we needed it the most. Notice, however, how all of those statements are (still) in the past tense.
I haven't forgiven Ray Allen, but I think I'm starting to. This isn't so much a logical process as it is a heart thing. Everyone dealt with Ray's departure differently and the people that were hurt by it all had varying degrees of the same few feelings.
For me, it was never about being "loyal to the Celtics." Well, not entirely. You see, I was completely fine with him moving on to another team. Even another contender or even a competitor. My thing was, "as long as it isn't the Lakers or Heat." Not only did he chose the Heat, but he took less money to go there, the ultimate slap in the face.
With all that said, if I take a few steps back and think of it from his perspective I can at least understand a little better why he did it. For one thing, the amount of times that he was involved in trade rumors must have been hard to take. At some point you can't help but feel unwanted and disrespected. It sure sounds like his relationship with Rondo was sour at best. So once again, nobody could blame him for wanting to move on.
He had been a big part of 2 other franchises in his career. Boston was a big part of his career and he won a title there, but he wasn't a career-long Celtic the way Paul Pierce was. Notice, if you will, how much easier it was for Garnett to get introduced to the Nets ("sup Brooklyn!") than it was for Paul. So once Ray had moved on, he was moving on. He was severing ties and starting with a clean slate. That was his right as a free agent.
He has earned his money in this league and gone to many All Star games and broken several records. His career was winding down and all he cared about was competing for titles. He's a competitor and he wanted to play for the top prize in the game. Nobody can fault him for that.
I think perhaps what stung the most was his analysis of the Celtics (who had just given Miami a run for their money) and the Heat and the decision he made that the Heat were the superior team. Just about any analyst and many Celtics fans would tell you the same, but it hurt to see it so emphatically stated with his actions. In short, he thought the Heat were so much better than the Celtics, that it was worth severing ties with his coach and peers that were loyal to him (even if his GM and perhaps his point guard were not).
As it turns out, he was right. He was vindicated with his decision and was rewarded with a second Championship on his Hall of Fame resume. Pierce and Garnett can only hope to follow in his footsteps this year. Not only that, but he played a pivotal role in making that championship happen. If he misses that shot at the end of regulation in Game 6, we're all singing a different tune about how LeBron choked away his chance at a second straight title.
Funny story about that shot: In the waning seconds of regulation, I saw the Spurs up a few points and I was feeling pretty good about the outcome. I decided to give Ray a little grief on twitter so I typed "Dear Ray, HA HA." Seconds later they are within 3 points and he's rising up to take a 3 pointer. I know it is going in and my heart sinks. It didn't take long for the mocking tweets to come flooding into my timeline. Yup, I should have known better because I've seen him do it so many times before.
I think that probably was the turning point for me. What could I say? All I could do was tip my cap and say, congrats, you showed me.
I'm still not "over it." I'm still biter and I still want the Heat to lose and lose big. But I guess I'm starting to be able to separate Ray's decision to move on from the time he spent in Boston making shots like that. Shots that kicked opponents' fans in the gut and stole victory from them. So many times I didn't lose hope in a particular game the Celtics were trailing in because "we're just a couple Ray Allen 3's from being tied."
He was absolutely a critical part of that 2008 Championship and his blow-by around Vujacic is one of the defining moments that I'll always remember about that series. If not for Garnet's injury the next year, we might have been celebrating back to back titles (or who knows, maybe a 3-peat). The team was even better that year and a big part of it was because Doc had figured out how to maximize Ray's talents.
But all that is in the past now. All we have is memories. So does time heal all wounds? Maybe, but it will be different for everyone. Some understood right away and never begrudged him his decision. Some, like me are still trying to figure out how we feel. Still others will never, ever, ever forgive him to their dying day. To each his/her own.
When you talk about the general consensus, it will be interesting to see if and when he gets his number retired. Certainly it won't be right away. It won't happen until Pierce and Garnett each have their own moments. It might be years later and it might take some olive branch moments between the team and Ray. If I had to guess, I'd imagine that eventually it will happen, but I can't say that for sure.
I'm sure there are still some strong feelings on both sides of this topic, so feel free to discuss in the comments (but please remember to be respectful towards each other).
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