The picture-perfect release. The smooth-as-silk follow-through. An utter lack of wasted motion. A quiet lower body that never fails to be in perfect balance.
When it comes to pretty things, you take Megan Fox. I’ll take Ray Allen’s jumpshot.
When you see Ray Allen let loose a jumper, even when it misses, you feel he was born to do nothing else. How else could you explain his stroke, more pure than Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus?
But Ray says it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when his shot was, in his word, “weird.” (Boston Globe)
“My coach at the time, he put me on tape and he showed me my form shooting,’’ said the Celtics guard. “I was jumping at the free throw line, and I have the tape still somewhere around the house.’’
Unless I see the tape, I don’t believe it. Ray Allen came out of the womb specifically designed to shoot three-pointers, jumpers, runners, and anything else that involves him flicking his wrist so a little round ball travels through a ring raised ten feet from a hardwood floor. Barring conclusive evidence, there is nothing Ray Allen can do or say to get me to think otherwise. Not even the following quote can change my mind.
“People always want to say that shooting the basketball is God-given and everyone isn’t blessed with that,’’ Allen said. “I say, my ability to shoot is my ability to want to go out and work every day at it, prepare, and just stay zoned in every day.’’ [...]
“Reggie Miller doesn’t have the best form, but his time in Indiana, he’s religiously been one of the hardest workers there,’’ Allen said. “That’s a formula. That’s the formula.’’
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick and tired of having Ray Allen lie to me. When he tells me that what he does — and does as well as or better than more or less any human being to walk this planet has ever done — isn’t God-given, it makes my toes curl. To suggest that I, through hours and years of hard work, could shoot a basketball with the accuracy and longevity of Ray Allen is nothing short of blasphemy. That’s like saying I could throw a baseball in my backyard for years and suddenly be Pedro Martinez in his prime. Or toss around the pigskin for awhile and morph into Tom Brady, slinging touchdown passes to everyone in sight. Apologies to Ray Allen, but his talents are undeniably God-given.
To call them that is no slight to his work ethic, which by all accounts involves getting to the gym before anyone else and draining shot after shot while his teammates and opponents are still sleeping. Just look at MJ: Michael Jordan is widely considered the hardest worker to ever grace an NBA court, but his talents were most definitely a gift from above. If you took Brian Scalabrine and gave him Jordan’s work ethic and competitive mindset, he still wouldn’t sniff being the player Jordan was. There are certain things that are unteachable, that only the great ones have.
Ray-Ray’s shooting, much like Jordan’s athleticism, is one of those things. There are other, less worthy shooters who also spend long chunks of time in the gym. But, as with any other skill, certain people are limited. If you locked Andris Biedrins in a gym for three years, threw away the key, and forced him to do nothing but shoot jumpers, he’d never become half the shooter Jesus Shuttlesworth is. Not only that, but, over the three years, he’d probably score only 10 or 20 points, even with nobody defending him. With shooting, like anything else, people have limitations.
For Ray, those limits just don’t seem to be there. It’s why we wondered what the hell was wrong when Ray struggled through the first half of the season. Regular human beings go through shooting slumps, not Ray Allen. Ray was born to shoot, and that’s what we expect out of him.
We laud his work ethic, and understand the amount of effort it took to build and maintain his craft over an entire career. Ray could have squandered his gift, like many people have done with their talents, but he never allowed that to happen. He refused to take his ability to float a ball through a basket for granted, and developed that ability to a point that, perhaps, no other human being ever has.
A lot of what he has accomplished is due to hard work, but there can be no mistaking the fact that Ray Allen was born with a talent very few men have. It’s not hard to find that out.
All you have to do is watch him shoot sometime.