- NBA legend Ray Allen spoke to Business Insider to discuss his new book, which covers his journey through the NBA.
- Allen spoke about how the NBA evolved over his career and which teams were best at taking care of their players.
- Allen also discussed the concept of super-teams and what he would change about the NBA today.
Four years after leaving the NBA, Ray Allen still remains a key figure in the league.
Allen became one of the game’s top scoring guards, helped weaponize the three-pointer, played with some of the NBA’s most notable “Big Three” teams, owns perhaps the biggest three-pointer in NBA history, and is the all-time leader in made threes. Last Friday, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In March, Allen released a book, “From the Outside,” documenting his rise in the NBA, his work ethic, and a lasting sense of insecurity, as he was traded from team to team or, in his mind, shorted in contract negotiations.
Allen spoke to Business Insider about his new book, how the NBA changed over his career, and the concept of super-teams.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Scott Davis: In the book, you talk about some of the crazy drills you used to do – lying on your back and running into a shot, starting from your knees, etc. Who helped you develop those? Did you think you were more prepared to hit big shots because of those drills?
Ray Allen: “I had a lot of people that I worked with. People that would rebound for me, I had a lot of people that I would shoot drills with and go through routines with. But over the years, you kind of figure out what it is you need. And that’s kind of, my body, I understood I had to get lift on my jump shot, so I tried to put myself in situations that would force me to have to work a little bit harder to get to that same lift.”
Davis: In the book, you said while you were on the Seattle SuperSonics the team didn’t regularly provide food before games or luggage. How much has the league changed over time in that regard, and do you think there was one person influential in changing it?
Allen: “Well, as you move around the league you just realise the teams that really take care of your players. And for most people on the outside looking in, the first thing that you’re going to say is, you know, these guys, they make tons and tons of money and if that was the case, we all could do certain things for ourselves.
“But what people don’t realise is you’re still working for an organisation, regardless of what your salary is – that’s negotiated in the beginning – but working conditions are pretty different as you move from team to team. How you travel, how they write the schedule, what your facilities look like, whether you have a chef on duty or not. All these things force you to have to either do the extra things to measure, especially if you come from a place that had those things, then you have to figure out how to adjust. So it’s just the small things that when you go to an organisation where they take care of everything for you, it allows you to just kind of settle in, take care of your family, and be the best player you can be. And you do notice it in your play.”
Davis: Was there a team that stood out to you for doing all that and taking care of their players?
Allen: “I would say that Boston really was probably the place that, organizationally, we always, I guess you could say we didn’t really worry about a lot of things off the court. Scheduling wise, it wasn’t a problem. Doc [Rivers] always made sure that he fought for us when it came to appearances, like he didn’t want people to be trying to over-inundate us with keeping us busy off the court. He wanted us to get our rest. He adjusted the practice schedule, based on what he felt was necessary for us to get rest. He always asked us what time we wanted to practice. Practice sometimes consistently was 9 or 10 throughout my career. But with Doc sometimes we practiced at 1 or 2 because he wanted guys to be able to rest. He wanted you to be able to do whatever it is you need to do in your morning.”
“And so we were never in a rush. It was probably the best sleep in my career that I had gotten because I didn’t have to rush and get up first thing in the morning. I could kind of move through my day and do the things that I needed for my children. And everybody’s trying to get to work first thing in the morning and we never really had to push into that narrative of being in rush-hour traffic on a daily basis. So they probably made it easiest for us where we could focus and just play basketball.”
Davis: You wrote in the book that several times in your career learned you were traded through media reports. How often do players learn about trades through the media? Is it more often than the general public would think?
Allen: “I believe the general public doesn’t understand the protocols for how trades happen. Often times it’s a reporter breaking a trade that happens as it’s being worked on and the players are always the last ones to know. Typically you get a call from a friend, they have seen something on TV as a trade is in the works. It is somewhat, I would say, for a lack of a better word, tacky and unprofessional for a team to not alert its players if they’re trading them.
“And then you don’t even have a conversation after that, that you were traded. Two teams, when I got traded from Milwaukee and Seattle, nobody informed me that I was traded. I was just on my way out. Once I learned of it, it’s like, ok, you move on, and I talk to my agents, and you’re on the move. When you think you’re integral to the success of an organisation and then you get traded and then all of the sudden you’re on your way out, it’s almost like, ‘Jeeze I guess I didn’t mean that much to them.'”
Davis: So does it happen more often than most people realise? It seems like a big story nowadays if it’s revealed that a player learned he was traded via Twitter.
Allen: “It happens way more often you would imagine. And that’s why often times I appreciate when guys take their own situation into their hands, when they’re able to control the narrative and go where they want. We always talk how it’s never about loyalty. It’s not about whether a team’s loyal to you. Because you could play for a team for 10 years and they will trade you in the 11th year because they gotta get younger or they gotta figure out what’s going to be best for the future. It’s not about loyalty to that player; it’s about what is going to sustain your franchise.
“And then the players gotta think, how can I maximise my long-term dollar and at the same time consider possibly winning a championship? So on both sides, it’s always about business.”
Davis: You talked about having to adapt to a smaller role when you got traded to Boston. In the age of super-teams, what advice would you give star players who have teamed up and have to accept smaller roles?
Allen: “Well, first of all, I don’t believe that there’s super-teams. Because you look at a player that was dominant on another team, you come together, you have so much talent on one team. But the way that people are framing it, like these guys are so unstoppable, but it requires five players on the floor. Any five is capable of beating the next five any given night, and so, typically all you gotta do is be good on that night. And then you build up a routine or rhythm as to who and how your team is going to compete daily.
“For me, when you fall into that mode, you’re assuming we’re a super-team based on what we did in our past, but moving forward, we can’t do those same things if we want to be successful and win as a unit together. It requires each one of us to really take a backseat at some point in time, in some game, whatever it may be, in order for us to be successful long term.”
Davis: What would you tell someone like Carmelo Anthony, for example, about taking a backseat? He’s moved into a smaller role behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Allen: “Well if you truly want to win you kind of have to reinvent yourself. You have to kinda strip yourself of everything that you’ve known up until this point. You’re no longer the guy, the lead man, the go-to player. And if you have this argument or fight with yourself or you talk about how you’re not getting the touches, you’re going to struggle. It requires you to figure out what the new situation presents you. And when you find that, you’ll have your days where you’ll have your big numbers, and then you’ll have your days where you’ll be rock-bottom numbers, numbers that you haven’t experienced before. But if it’s for the good of the team and you’re winning, that’s what’s most important.”
Davis: When you played with LeBron James, what did you take away from his preparation for games, especially taking care of his body? Did anything stand out? Did you ever teach him anything?
Allen: “I believe that we, just being around each other and talking about the things that we do to make our games better, the things that I’ve done, the way that I’ve eaten, I think he just picked up on it. He’s allowed it to grow into who he is. He’s always kind of trying to figure out, as his body gets older, how to learn to eat moving forward. I just think that’s always been a great example for him. Everybody that he’s played with, his good friends, have kinda pushed the envelope so he could get better.”
Davis: Do you know anything about the time LeBron supposedly gained seven pounds in an Eastern Conference Finals game?
Allen: “Uh… no I don’t.”
Davis: There was a story on ESPN a few weeks ago that made the rounds that he once gained seven pounds in an Eastern Conference Finals game and players were baffled. I didn’t know if you were on the team or had heard of it.
Allen: “No, I’ve never heard of that before.”
Davis: The Miami Heat have a reputation as being a great team when it comes to players’ diets and nutrition and fitness. I was wondering if that culture was already there when you played in Miami and if you remember anything about how they took care of players.
Allen: “I think they were probably one of the few teams that always focused on what a player’s body fat is. We had regular body fat checks. Like, I’ve done it most of my career, but I think with the Heat, they always made sure that it was a regular check that had to be, that most players had to be [held] accountable to.
“I think program wise, it’s pretty consistent around the board for most teams. You have your strength and conditioning coaches and your nutritionists. So it’s pretty standard across the league in what each player has to do to take care of his body. That’s always been, you learn that early, and you kind of maintain it throughout your career.”
Davis: How close did you come to returning to the NBA over the last few years?
Allen: “I wasn’t close at all. I was just, maybe a year and a half ago I asked, just inquired about a few teams and nothing too serious. I work out and do what I do naturally, but if I was serious, I would have got in the gym and really been pushing my body. But there was nothing serious.
Davis: Is there a play in your career that sticks out to you as being a really big moment that others don’t talk about? The three-pointer in Game 6 of the Finals against the Spurs always gets attention, but is there something you did that people don’t talk about?
Allen: “I guess in regards to that, people will talk about what really particularly tickles their fancy in any given situation. Personally, I focus more on what I do in practice, the stuff that you should see on highlights. You’re always proud of the moments you competed when you’re in games, but the stuff that we do behind the scenes is probably more what we worry about than anything. For fans, it would be what you put out there is what each particular fan remembers for themselves and how it made them feel.”
Davis: Stephen Curry is chasing your record for all-time made threes. How will you feel if/when he breaks it?
Allen: “Records are made to be broken, just as I broke it. It’s something I never even imagined when they told me I was close to it. So it wasn’t anything that I aspired to do, so just the fact that I was able to do it when I did it was incredible. The game has changed, so the envelope is going to be pushed for years to come and as it continues to go and go.”
Davis: Do you ever wish you came up in the league in this era where teams are pushing the pace, spreading the floor, shooting more threes, etc.?
Allen: “No. I mean I served my time when I had it. And I always knew that in my first three or four years, we felt so lucky to be in the game when we got in because of what we were able to do then. So we just were thanking the guys that came before us because we were able to do so much more. So if we do our jobs and grow the game, then the next generation will grow it. It will continue to build, and that’s – you can never have regrets. You just gotta do what you can do with it when you have it.”
Davis: What’s one thing you would change about the NBA?
Allen: “I would make it mandatory that every team has at least, out of 82 games, has a standard slot of games that is on TV. So maybe you play 20 games a year on TV out of 82. And then obviously you get the other markets, the other teams. Because, you just look at the football model and each week, every Sunday, it doesn’t matter what your record is, you’re going to be on TV and have the opportunity to play. I know our model is different. But it holds these other teams accountable to have to field a competitive team, even when you’re in a down year, you still have to compete because you know you’re going be on a national stage. So I would give more accountability to those teams by making sure they played on TV more consistently throughout the year.
Davis: So more big ESPN, TNT, ABC games and such?
Allen: “Yeah, Sunday games, put them on TV. Typically we go with the Christmas games, we put the best teams on Christmas Day, but I would… put every team would have an opportunity to play. Because I would want to showcase the league. I think it makes a case that every team has to be competitive and accountable to getting better on a daily basis.
“I’ve noticed that they will drag the worst team in the NFL through the mud on the bad decisions they have made and what they need to do to get better, and that accountability does make those owners and those GMs figure out moving forward what they need to do to make their team better.”
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