AMID the hoopla of the NCAA Final Four on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) in San Antonio, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the 13 members of the Class of 2018. Among those selected by the Honors Committee of the Hall of Fame was two-time NBA champion Ray Allen.
Allen attended the University of Connecticut between 1993 and 1996 and played for three seasons with the Huskies, earning first team All-American honors and the Big East Player of the Year award in his final year. He was also named the honorary captain of the UConn All-Century Basketball Team in 2001.
In the NBA, Allen played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat over his 18-year career. The 10-time All Star was an integral part of two championship teams in the 2008 Celtics and the 2013 Heat, where he memorably sank a contested triple with 5.2 seconds left to force overtime and deny the San Antonio Spurs a title-clinching win in Game 6.
Allen’s productive career included winning a gold medal with Team USA at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and even a brief Hollywood stint in the 1998 movie He Got Game as he played Denzel Washington’s basketball star son Jesus Shuttlesworth.
It’s been quite a stellar career for Allen and the Hall of Fame announcement made him feel nostalgic.
“It’s a long journey. I think about everybody who had a hand in my growth, not only as an athlete but as a person…. And to be able to go in with this class of individuals, people who I’ve admired and respected and used their example to grow who I am, the honor is certainly all mine,” he said.
Since retiring after the 2013-2014 NBA season, Allen has kept busy in writing his book From the Outside: My Journey Through Life and the Game I Love, which was released last week.
The 42-year-old Allen also has a number of causes that he is passionate about, including raising awareness of juvenile diabetes, the importance of nutrition and movement in wellness, and social issues affecting youth today.
“What I’ve learned is that we have such a small window in how we can have an impact on the people that watch us play. You understand how you change people's lives,” said Allen.
“I'm telling people, 'I play basketball for a living,' it's not that complicated or serious. It's a game, there are so many more pressing issues. What I've learned through people is how we inspire them to change their lives to be better."
Allen emphasizes commonality and empathy in his words, relating a story about talking to the children attending his basketball camp in Barcelona.
“The kids were coming from school, their parents were dropping them off. They had to do their homework and they would come to play basketball…. I was like [you] kids all over the world, you guys do the same thing. After school you come to play basketball, but you've got to do your homework first. You go home, you finish your homework, you eat, and you do it all over again the next day. What is different from any kid anywhere around the world?” he said.
“So to sit here and draw a line and say, 'well, you're French, or you're Spanish, or you're from San Antonio, or you're from Nebraska,' you know, there is no difference."
It’s a lesson he learned in living and traveling around the U.S. and world, growing up as an ‘Air Force brat’ before eventually globetrotting as a professional basketball player.
“I know how people live in Oklahoma City, how people live in L.A., how people live in Poland."
After experiencing these things, he feels he has "a responsibility of encouraging people to be selfless… To try and teach people how to have empathy and respect for each people's customs, how people eat, how people share."
Last September, Allen had the chance to visit the Philippines and he fondly recalled what it was like to, quite literally, run through Manila.
"It was amazing how many people knew who I was, just kind of moving through the streets. I know just how far removed we are from the Philippines being over here, but how connected people feel to the game of basketball," said Allen, who was overwhelmed with the Filipino fans’ support.
"We appreciate their support over there because it is such a loving fan base and such a great people," he added with a smile. "We appreciate what you guys mean to us."
Allen will be joined by other basketball greats Grant Hill, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd, among others, when they are enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 6-8, 2018, in Springfield, Massachusetts.