Ray Allen Q+A
“If I shoot a halfcourt shot, I feel like I’ve got a great chance of making it.”
Speaking with Ray Allen about shooting is akin to talking about fastballs with Nolan Ryan or sprinting with Usain Bolt. No one is better qualified to speak about the subject at hand than him. The same can be said about talking footwear with Allen. If you’ve seen some of his Jordan Brand Player Exclusives, you know his sneaker game matches up with everyone’s but Michael Jordan himself.
Yesterday, SLAMonline had the chance to spend a sizable chunk of time conversing on those subjects and others with the 35-year-old Allen. With the sharpshooter on the brink of eclipsing Reggie Miller’s career three-point record, and with Jordan Brand dropping the Air Jordan 2011 on February 19, there was a lot to discuss with the Boston Celtics starting shooting guard.
We dropped a little morsel of the conversation last night. Here’s the rest.
SLAM: I consider you a bit of a renaissance man. That said, how much do kicks mean to you?
Ray Allen: Kicks? The kicks are always a sign of the times. You look back to kicks we all grew up watching certain guys play in, you look at all the kicks we’ve worn and how we’ve played in ‘em—certain kicks that you would play in and certain that you would only wear to school. As we’ve gotten older, that hasn’t changed. You still look at shoes certain players have on and it always defines the ages.
SLAM: Are you a collector at all?
RA: Yeah, I have every shoe that I’ve played in. And I have mostly every Jordan. So, yeah, I’m a collector. I’m a hoarder now.
SLAM: Jordan decked you out with special Black History Month sneakers?
RA: Yeah, I actually wore those just the other day [again]. We played Dallas. I wore the ones that they had for me for Black History Month because I wanted to end up wearing the shoes that I had, but I just didn’t like the black with the white [jersey] but I tried it on the other day anyway. So, I liked the way it looked with the white uniform. I try to switch it up.
SLAM: Speaking of Black History Month, do you do anything to commemorate it?
RA: One thing I try to do, with the community relations department, we do these two-minute speeches and we put them up on the jumbotron in the Garden. Just talking about some famous Black leaders over the course of the history of the world. Try to explain who they are. And just pay homage to past Black leaders.
SLAM: Shifting focus to hoops…Coming off a tough loss to the Bobcats, what are you thinking about?
RA: Just trying to get everybody on the same page, make sure that everybody does their job and understands what we’re always playing for.
SLAM: Trying to make sure it doesn’t tailspin like the middle of last year, where the Celtics had a long midseason funk.
RA: Yeah, we’ve been playing well. We’ve had so many injuries, so it’s been up and down for us. So our consistency has to improve. The toughest thing—we just lost Marquis [Daniels] the other day, hopefully Delonte West will be back soon. So, we’ve been in recovery mode mostly all season.
SLAM: Yeah, every time you get somebody back, it feels like you lose somebody else.
RA: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly how it’s been.
SLAM: Marquis’ injury kind of impacts you; he spells you sometimes. You’re playing like 36 minutes a game. How’s your body feeling?
RA: My body feels good. The coach is trying not to have to play me so many minutes, but you figure coming down the stretch the bench is going to be very important. So, we need our bench players to step up and be more productive than the other team’s bench players.
SLAM: Does the wear on your body really accumulate over the season?
RA: It only accumulates if you’re playing tough minutes and you get hurt. Depending on who you are and how you’re playing, you tend to carry on nicks and bruises that won’t go away. So far I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with anything major.
SLAM: At this point in the season, do you feel a little bit better than you have the past few seasons?
RA: Not too bad, not too tough. I feel pretty consistently the same.
SLAM: I’ve got to ask about the upcoming record you’re on the cusp on breaking. Is this something you could’ve ever imagined, hitting almost 2,600 threes?
RA: Honestly, it’s almost like somewhere, somebody added like 500 threes to my resume. Because I looked up and I’m sitting here on the precipice of achieving this greatness, being one of the best shooters of all time.
SLAM: It’s amazing, right?
RA: Yeah, I mean it’s all about longevity. It’s all about taking care of yourself. It’s all about being a good teammate. It’s all about having good teammates. It’s all about being on good teams. It’s not like you just play one on five. (Laughs.) All the great passes, the great point guards I’ve played with—there are so many things—all the big men that set so many great screens for you. There are so many things that go into this.
RA: Well, my dad was a shooter. He could always shoot the ball, so I always played with him and watched him shoot. He was a better shooter than me for long time. I just had a knack for putting the ball in, and then I ended up lining up with some coaches when I was young that instilled fundamentals in me, you know, shooting free throws. Coach Hobbs, he’s now the head coach at George Washington, he, when I first got to Connecticut, he was instrumental in making sure I was consistent and shot the same way every time. He was a guard, and he just made sure, fundamentally, that I stayed on point. I give him a lot of credit.
SLAM: Do you feel your shot’s improved or changed at all since you’ve been in the League?
RA: No, I don’t think it’s changed a lot. I just try to have that phone booth form and make sure I keep my legs consistent in my shot, and the rest takes care of itself.
SLAM: When you’re telling people how to shoot, what do you stress to them, the upper or lower body?
RA: The lower body is the most important. The upper body is kinda like non-existent if your lower body is doing what it’s supposed to do—the upper body just feels like your flicking your wrist. That really comes into play. If you got great legs on your shot, you never have to worry about missing—it’s always going to have a shot to go in.
SLAM: Are you ever surprised about how well you shoot it? Like, when you’re on fire.
RA: No, I’m only surprised when I miss.
SLAM: So you always think your shot is going in?
RA: Yup. I’m only surprised when I miss. When it doesn’t go in I’m like, ‘How did that happen?! I don’t get it.’ And truly I mean that. I only question the misses. When I make it, I expect it to go in. Even if I shoot a halfcourt shot, I feel like I’ve got a great chance of making it.
SLAM: Can you usually pinpoint why you missed after you watch tape?
RA: I don’t even have to look at the film; I can feel it the minute I let it go. It’s trying to get to that point where I never have to think about it and I can just let it go and don’t even have to worry about it.
SLAM: Is that feeling innate or something you gained from practice?
RA: Just something you learn from shooting so many shots. So you know when you miss, you know you’re short, your legs aren’t in it. If you’re aiming, if you start aiming, that’s when you miss to the left or the right. All these things go into play. You just try to get to a point where you are comfortable enough to where you don’t aim, you’re not short, you just take one step in the air, flick of the wrist and the ball’s in the hoop.
SLAM: Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that spending 10,000 hours at any one pursuit ensured you’d be successful at it.
RA: And there’s no question about it. [After all those hours], you don’t even have to think about it anymore. That’s, alongside of his Tipping Point, all these things that we do over time, the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve spent 10,000 hours at any one task. You can argue that’s it not about you being great at something; it’s just you know how to do it over and over again. That’s why I don’t take credit or praise for being able to shoot the basketball, because I do it so much. Pat me on the back; tell me I’m great. But, I’m like, get in the gym with me and you’ll be like, ‘I’ve watched him work out, so I really expect that to go in.’