On Tuesday morning, Ray Allen retired from the NBA by writing an article on the Player’s Tribune. For those in Boston, Allen will forever be a crucial member of the big three with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that helped deliver banner #17 to the TD Garden in 2008. For others, Allen was a nice complementary player on the 2013 Miami Heat Championship. And even for others, Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth from He Got Game. For me, Allen is the star of the most important sports moment in my life.
March 10th, 1996. Madison Square Garden. Big East Championship game. Allen vs Allen, Ray vs Iverson. I was sitting in the living room at my childhood home in Manchester, CT, just 20 minutes from the Storrs, CT campus watching the game with my dad on our 19 inch TV. The game began and UConn looked like there were going to get blown out by the Hoyas. They were down 18 in the middle of the 1st half and had committed 20 turnovers. Then UConn started to make a push, closing the gap to just 4 at half time, 46-42. Jim Calhoun had rallied the team and was not going to go quietly (as he never did).
As the 2nd half wore on, UConn was still trying to play catch-up. At the 4:46 mark, UConn was down 74-63 and things were looking bleak. Then the run started. Freshman Ricky Moore and junior Kirk King stepped it into high gear and cut the deficit one basket at a time. All of a sudden, it was a 1-point with under a minute left on the clock, 74-73. After a timeout, Doron Sheffer fouled Victor Page, the tournament MVP, and sent him to the foul line in a 1-and-1 situation. Page missed the first shot and UConn got the rebound and called a timeout with 33 secs left. This was their chance. The ball was in-bounded to Ricky Moore who brought the ball up the court, dribble penetrated, handed the ball off to Ray Allen who hit a ridiculous off-balance, feet kicking, body contorting, twisting jumper.
AlIen Iverson had a jump shot to win it, but missed and the put back with just a few seconds left rolled off the rim. The UConn Huskies were Big East Champions for the first time in the program’s history. Ray Allen had exactly 1 basket in the 2nd half, but it was the greatest shot of my lifetime. Huddled around our TV, we went nuts and my life was changed. My passion for sports grew from that moment and into the crazy, obsessed fan I am today 20+ years later. From then on, I followed Allen, as best as I could, for the remainder of his basketball career until today, when he officially decided to hang up his shoes.
In general, I have a terrible memory, but that moment is emblazoned in my mind. No matter what you think about Ray Allen, he has had one hell of a career. After 3 years at UConn, Allen logged 18 seasons in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Seattle SuperSonics, the Boston Celtics, and the Miami Heat. Allen holds the record for 3-pointers made in a career with 2,973 (413 more than Reggie Miller) and is ranked 22nd on the all-time scoring list with 24,505 points.
Thank you Ray, for helping me find my sports passion.