7/10/12: “Don’t Let a Win Get to Your Head or a Loss to Your Heart”
It’s a Sunday night at Weymouth High School and I’m once again firing away, launching a couple hundred jump shots, working on post moves, spending very little time on defensive drills because my hamstrings ache and I’m lazy. On most nights, I’ll be hitting jumpers from all over the blacktop, swish, feeling pretty good about myself.
Anybody reading this who grew up playing with me is probably laughing because I was always the “Sean Sylver had a good effort with 10 rebounds” guy at the end of the newspaper column with no offensive game to speak of.
But really, over the last five years, I’ve developed a semi-reliable jumper, the result of hundreds of hours at the playgrounds in Quincy, where I used to live, and now Weymouth, where I’m less likely to find a pickup game and can usually get all the way through my practice regimen when I have a free night.
In sports, a major key to success is visualization: if you can see yourself doing it right; it’s easier to do so. Over these last five years, every time I spun that ball out to the elbow, pivoted, and rose up for a jump shot, I visualized Ray Allen, #20 in a crisp home Celtics jersey, feet shoulder’s width apart, going straight up in rhythm and releasing a textbook jump shot that catches nothing but the bottom of the net. Not even a swish; a soft ripple.
I wanted to be that good, said “Ray Allen” to myself in games when I had an open jumper to make sure my form was there, and most of the time, I hit the shot.
But the other night, my jumper was way off. Maybe my legs were tired, or I was drifting, or pushing the ball rather than flicking my wrist.
And every time I squared up, I pictured Allen in a Miami Heat jersey. He hasn’t even taken the court with the Heat yet, but the fact is: Ray is gone. Apparently dissatisfied with his role in Boston and seeking another championship, he quietly exited for Miami and will play for the Celtics’ biggest rival next year, a team that knocked them out of the playoffs the last two seasons, a team that makes me so sick to my stomach I could barely watch any of the NBA Finals.
Locally, the weekend was spent assailing Ray’s reputation. Talk radio was abuzz. Adrian Wojnarowski, after writing one of his famed Yahoo! pieces where anonymous sources paint a controversial picture, popped up on multiple outlets. Barstool Sports, ever the opportunists, printed “Judas Shuttlesworth” t-shirts. Does this stuff only happen in Boston?
If Ray Allen closes out his career with the Miami Heat, so be it. Ty Law went to the Jets. El Tiante pitched his last two seasons with the Yankees and even filmed a hot dog commercial where he stated “it’s nice to play for a weiner.”
So what? When we think of Ty Law, he’s dancing at the Super Bowl parade in ’02. We remember Tiant battling the Reds in the ’75 World Series.
And when we remember Ray Allen, we’ll think of the last five years — times when we worked, we played, we partied, a lot of our friends got married, and the Celtics were exciting because they had Ray and KG and Pierce and Rondo and anything was possible.
Ray’s game gave me goosebumps; the classy way in which he conducted himself off the court only gave rise to admiration. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I will miss Ray Allen the same way I miss all the greats when they go. It hurts. But he, and we, will move on.
Could we please refrain from kicking the guy on his way out the door?
It was a pleasure, Ray.
I hope Miami loses, but thanks for giving us five awesome years in Boston.
This post was originally published to The Fox Hole on WordPress, July 10, 2012.