Ray Allen has made 3,209 three-pointers in a career that has spanned 17 seasons and included 10 trips to the playoffs. Of all those shots, number 3,209 will go down as his most memorable. Where were you with 5.2 seconds left? Where were you when Allen backpedaled to the corner, rose up, flicked his wrist and changed everything in the fourth quarter of Game 6 — delivering one of the greatest experiences in South Florida sports history?
Allen’s shot tied the score at 95-95 to force overtime, and the Heat won 103-100 for a winner-take-all Game 7.
Now here are the words of the players and coaches who lived through “The Shot.”
It begins the only way it can, with seven words (six that are fit to print) from the hands that made it all happen.
“Get those [motherbleeping] ropes out of here!”
Moments after Allen hit the shot, one of the game’s assistant officials, Mike Callahan, ordered a stoppage of play to review whether Allen’s feet were behind the three-point line. As Allen trotted back to the Heat’s bench he shouted his now famous phrase at the security personnel who were lined around the perimeter of the court and holding a long yellow rope, which had been brought out to keep people off the court during the trophy ceremony.
The ropes made their first appearance of the series with 28.2 seconds on the clock after Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called a timeout with his team trailing by five points, 94-89.
Allen: “The yellow rope pissed me off. It did. I’ve been in two other situations where I see that come out. And it wasn’t a good thing in those situations. There was a minute or so left in the game, and it was almost like San Antonio, the players on the bench, were celebrating. The rope came out, and some of our fans were leaving the building. We didn’t give up. We knew we had to continue to push through this.
“We just, to a man, felt like — a couple of the guys said it — this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, and we don’t see this. This is not what our future is. Not right now. Not here. We fought to make sure that didn’t happen.”
LeBron James, who had 13 points in the fourth quarter at that point, and who had willed the Heat back in the game after Miami trailed by 10 points, 75-65, had a series of potentially devastating possessions (turnover, turnover, airball) during an 11-second stretch of time, but it was clear at that point that if the Heat was going down, it was going down with ball in the MVP’s hands. Mike Miller caught/rebounded James’ three-point airball under the basket and then whipped it back out to him. This time James’ shot went down, cutting the Spurs’ lead to two points, 94-92, with 20.1 seconds left.
James: “After we came out [to begin the fourth quarter], before we entered the ball, I basically just told myself, give it all I got. If we go down losing, I’m going to go down with no bullets. I’m going all out. I can be satisfied with the results.”
Amazingly, five seconds before James’ three-pointer, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich subbed out future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan for Boris Diaw.
Duncan: “It’s what we’ve done all year. In a situation where we were going to switch a lot of things, and it’s just unfortunate the way it happened.”
In life, sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you make your own luck and sometimes a 21-year-old misses a free throw with a championship in the balance. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard missed the front end of his first of two free throws with 19 seconds left after being fouled by Miller. It gave the Heat the slimmest of chances. After the miss, Spoelstra subbed in Bosh for Miller, and Popovich put Diaw in the game once again for Duncan.
Allen inbounded the ball Mario Chalmers, who raced up the left side of the court while being closely defended by Tony Parker after Leonard’s make. Chalmers crossed the timeline with 16.2 seconds on the clock and immediately dribbled to the left wing, and toward James, to set up the Heat’s desperation play.
James raced toward Chalmers, hoping to induce a defensive switch. It worked. Leonard left James to pick up Chalmers and, in the confusion, Parker hesitated momentarily, leaving himself in no man’s land, and giving James an open look with 11.6 seconds remaining.
James let it fly from the left wing, 26 feet from the basket. When James’ shot caromed high off the rim, Chris Bosh was under the basket along with one other teammate, Allen, who had crashed the glass from the right corner.
Allen: “At that point, there’s no guarantee who is going to get the ball or what may happen.”
But Bosh found his way to the rim without resistance and positioned himself unimpeded for the biggest rebound of his life. Bosh had three options when he came down with the ball — but chose the best option without hesitation. After all, if you’re in need of a miracle, best go with Jesus Shuttlesworth — Allen’s character in the movie He Got Game.
From his initial position in the paint, Allen ran backward six steps in 1.7 seconds. He caught the ball with his right hand in between his fifth and sixth steps while at the same time glancing down in the briefest of moments to ensure his feet were behind the three-point line.
1/2 hours before games to practice his three-point shooting. Why is he the best three-point shooter in the game? He practices the most. His shot — the iconic elevation, the arms, the elbows, the wrist, the release — is hardwired into his muscle memory after many thousands of hours of work. With Ginobili on the ground and Leonard on the far side of the paint, it was the Spurs’ defender who contested James’ three-pointer 2.7 seconds earlier, Parker, who somehow managed to be the defender closest to Allen. Parker is fast but, slowed by his strained hamstring, he wasn’t fast enough to get a hand in Allen’s face.
Spoelstra: “And Ray did what he’s done for so many years. And we’ve seen it on the other side so many times.”
Shane Battier: “We were in trouble. We were in serious, serious trouble. If you do the math of with the time on the clock, it took a miracle for us to win that game. And the miracle occurred.”
Here’s the math: “Since the mid-1990s, 122 teams have been down five with between 20 and 30 seconds left in a postseason game,” wrote Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard on Sunday. “And before Allen’s shot, those teams that were in the Heat’s position were 0-122.”
Manu Ginobili: “It’s a tough moment. We were a few seconds away from winning the championship, and we let it go. A couple of rebounds that we didn’t catch, a tough three by Ray, a couple of missed free throws, it’s very tough …. I’m devastated.”
Allen: “It’s going to be a shot that I’m going to remember for a long time. There are a lot of shots that I’ve made in my career, but this will go high up in the ranks because of the situation. Just the way that whole last minute and a half unfolded, it wasn’t looking good for us. … When it went in, I was ecstatic. But at the same time I was expecting to make it.”
Dwyane Wade: “I actually had the benefit of being underneath the rim when Ray shot it. And when he shot it, I was looking at the ball and I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s going in.’ It was kind of like I couldn’t believe it in a sense. But also, ‘Oh, my God, it’s going in.’ When it went in, it’s new life.
“We have a saying on our team … in our thing before the game. We say, ‘To the last minute, to the last second, to the last man we fight.’ And that’s what we did. We fought to the very last second and were able to come back and get probably the best win that we’ve had outside of winning the championship last year, but the best win we’ve had as this unit this season.”