I can confidently say I will never be the world’s best at anything I do.
I will never be the best writer. I already established I was never the best basketball player — or anywhere halfway close. I was never the best mathematician, though I was intelligent. Never the best baseball player, though I threw a couple no-hitters in Little League (and struck out four batters — yes, four batters — the one inning I pitched in high school). Never the best teammate, though I almost always rooted on my compadres. Never the best scientist, although I did take AP Biology in high school (and actually got an ‘F’ in it one semester).
Never the best coach, as my JV team would undoubtedly tell you. Never the best brother, though I try. Never the best boyfriend, son, or friend, though I guess I’m not half bad. I’m sure I won’t be the best father, either, no matter how much I will one day love my children. I was once close to being the worst NCAA basketball player in the country, though that’s another story altogether.
But Ray Allen? He’s poised to become the world’s most prolific three-point shooter, or at least the most prolific three-point shooter ever to play in the world’s greatest basketball league. As long as he holds that record, he can look people in the eye and tell them: “I’m the best three-point shooter ever to walk the earth.” And when you’re the best in the world at anything, whether it’s three-point shooting or patting your head while walking backwards, that’s one hell of an accomplishment.
Phil Jackson recently wondered why we’re paying so much attention to Allen’s quest to surpass Reggie Miller. ”I got kind of a kick out of it because we don’t really celebrate 2-point baskets but somehow or another the 3-point basket has now become a really big thing,” he said.
Never mind that Jackson’s comment is like saying, “Why do we celebrate home runs? We should celebrate singles instead.” What he’s doing is belittling Allen’s quest, belittling the record that Allen will soon hold. Most importantly, he’s belittling the work Allen’s put in to get to this point, the work that’s made Allen the NBA’s quick-releasing, perfectly-conditioned, three-point shooting iron man.
You don’t become history’s best by sitting on your ass, and Ray Allen’s work ethic is legendary. He shoots hundreds of shots before each game. More on days off. He has been known to bike 30 miles per day. Or jog to the top of mountains. He uses the same meticulous routine before every game, a routine that includes waking by eight o’clock, eating two healthy meals, and shooting around on two separate occasions. He doesn’t drink alcohol. Hardly ever touches junk food. He’s 35 years old, but age can’t bother him to slow down.
Allen says he would have succeeded at anything he set his mind to. Such is his dedication.
“I have chosen to zone in and focus on this,” he says. “I played baseball and football and some soccer, and I truly would have been the best at those sports at whatever position I chose because I would have set my mind to it.”
His preparation makes him insane, sometimes. But when he gets the itch to shoot, to improve himself, his dedication drives him straight to the gym.
Still, one doesn’t become history’s best without a natural knack. I’ve seen men shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and I’ve seen those same men miss, and miss, and miss. I’ve seen men practice over and over, but still hold on to ugly form. There are approximately 400 NBA players each season. In Ray Allen’s 14-plus year NBA career, he’s had the most aesthetically pleasing jump shot, of any player, every year.
To watch Allen shoot — the way his upper and lower body work in perfect unison; the way he bends his legs before catching the ball shot-ready; the way he pivots on his inside foot and becomes perfectly balanced instantly; the way his elbow always remains directly underneath the ball; the way he cocks his wrist fluidly, ultimately following through with his index finger pointed straight at the hoop — is to believe he was born to shoot. Even if you understand the work it’s taken to hone his God-given skill; work that never seems to end.
Most of us will never be called the world’s best at anything, never mind the best in the world’s history. There are approximately 6,899,101,508 people alive in the world today, and I’m not sure how many more have lived since the advent of the three-point arc. Yet, when it comes to three-point shooting, Ray Allen is two makes away from laying claim as the best ever.
Maybe I should look into the record for patting your head while walking backwards.