I've done a pretty good job of avoiding this subject because I really wanted to let it sink in and marinate a bit before I reacted. Besides, others have covered the topic very well and of course everyone is going to have their own (sometimes very vocal) opinions. This isn't directed to sway folks off those opinions, just to kind of put down my thoughts for the record and perhaps help others clarify their own positions (if needed). [end preamble]
Ray Allen left the Boston Celtics for less money to play with the Miami Heat, who happen to be the team that eliminated the Celtics in the past two years and won the NBA Championship this past year. Those are facts. They may be the last definitive facts you'll read in this article.
I've read many opinions and heard a few sports talk radio debates about this and it seems to boil down to two divergent viewpoints. There's the "he's a traitor!" side and the "he's gotta do what's right for himself" side. I don't technically disagree with either side but I have ...issues with each.
"He's a Traitor! Boooooooooo!"
It isn't just that Ray Allen left. It's that he left for the Miami Heat. THAT Miami Heat. He knows as much as anyone what his actions mean to his former teammates, franchise, and fans. He knows exactly what reaction he's going to get from the fans now. He knows how easily he could have picked ANY other team (ok, maybe not the Lakers) and he would have been patted on the back and given a bouquet of flowers on the way out of town. Hey may have still had an opportunity to have his jersey retired.
Instead he made it personal. He felt slighted by Danny Ainge and Rajon Rondo and the whole Celtics organization because he wasn't respected enough during his tenure or specifically his last year in Boston. He wasn't recruited hard enough or sent enough loving text messages or whatever. So he specifically stuck it to the Celtics.
Except that it is never quite that simple. It wasn't all just "revenge" (if you can call it that). This isn't a WWE subplot where he shows up in a black mask and cape and hits Doc Rivers over the head with a folding chair. He looked around and decided that he wanted to be recruited, he wanted to feel loved, he wanted what he believed was a better shot at a title, and maybe he just wanted a change of scenery. Who knows how many layers deep his decision went? Point is, it wasn't just one reason why Ray Allen made his decision.
"It's a business, he has to do what's right for him."
Ray is a methodical, intelligent, professional human being with a good feel for public relations and business sense. So he weighed the pluses and minuses and decided what is right for himself and his family, which is completely his right. He was a free agent because the Celtics didn't sign him to a longer contract.
He was a free agent, with emphasis on the free. Free to do whatever he pleases with his career, regardless of what you or I may want. In fact, he was almost traded on multiple occasions and found his name popping up in rumors twice a year like clockwork. So why should he be loyal to a team that was not loyal to him? This viewpoint is laid out pretty well by the following link - with an excerpt shown here.
Sports are complex, and while it's easy to throw out blanket statements questioning people's loyalty, it's usually not quite as simple as that. In my opinion, athletes are labeled as disloyal far too easily in this day and age, based on unrealistic expectations that fans and media have for them and their futures. What is missing here is the undeniable reality that pro sports is a business on both sides of the equation, and more importantly, that this is not a bad thing.
Fine, that's all well and good. He's got the right to go where he wants and it is perhaps a bit going to far to label him "disloyal." With all that said and agreed upon, I just don't feel like it as black and white as that.
He had a home here in Boston. He had a family. He was part of Ubuntu. They had their fights and squabbles and idiocyncracies (of which he was very much part of) but at the end of the day they were a team in the truest sense. But he turned his back on those teammates and the fans. He specifically went to the team's biggest current rival for less money. Part of me wishes that he would have left for more money because that would have at least made more sense.
I guess it really was the end of an era. Ray's departure marks a clear end to the "Big 3" era as it started in 2007. Sure, Rondo is now the 3rd member of the current big 3, but it isn't the same. We are moving on because Ray Allen moved on. I'll always have fond memories of the years that Ray Allen spent in Boston. His sweet stroke is something that I'll show my kids when they are old enough to lift a ball over their heads. It was a wonderful swag-like feeling to know that even when your team was down 6 points with 50 seconds left, your team was still in it because you had Ray Allen on your side.
He's always going to be part of this era and I love everything that he did for this team and town. I do not take lightly the fact that he took a back seat to two other brighter stars and accommodated them, as well as our prickly but talented point guard. All of that is well understood and appreciated.
However, he's gone now. He's the enemy now. He's joined forces with a team that I begrudgingly respect but don't like ("hate" is a term that some of us, myself included, toss around a little too cavalierly sometimes). I don't hate Ray Allen, but I do really, really want to see him fail now. I want LeBron and Wade to make Rondo look like Mr. Mature Congeniality by comparison. I want the Celtics to beat the Heat and win another Championship without him. I want him to look back on his decision with great regret.
When I see Ray Allen step on the court against the Celtics for the first time (If I know TV programming at all, it will be the first game of the season) will I cheer for him or will I boo him? I don't honestly know. Maybe neither. I might just tip my cap to him, nod, and turn my attention to cheering on the guys still wearing green and white.
I root for the Celtics. Ray's not a Celtic anymore. The end.