Erik Spoelstra on Tuesday morning reminisced about the first time he saw Ray Allen work through a shooting drill in a Heat uniform.
It was something the coach said he had never seen anyone do before.
“He would lay on the floor, pop up, backpedal, have the presence of mind to have his feet set and not out of bounds and have a coach throw him the ball,” Spoelstra said. “Afterwards I said, ‘That seemed like a crazy drill. Why would he do something like laying down in the middle of the floor?’
“He said, ‘It’s extreme, but I want to prepare myself for when I’m in the lane and hit the floor, or I’m on the ground and there's an offensive rebound so I have the fundamentals to be able to back pedal, stay in bounds and be able to knock down shots.’ ”
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That exact scenario played itself out in what was arguably the biggest shot of Allen’s 18-year career, which officially came to a close Tuesday more than 28 months after his final game with the Heat in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals.
Allen, whose 2,973 career three-pointers are the most in league history, hit his most famous shot with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, sending the game to overtime and eventually the series to a Game 7, which Miami won to claim its third crown. On the play, Chris Bosh grabbed an offensive rebound and passed it out to Allen, who backtracked to the corner, elevated over the Spurs’ Tony Parker and hit the tying shot.
“Things don’t happen by accident the majority of the time in this league,” Spoelstra said Tuesday of Allen’s shot. “It was an incredible thing to see, but that’s how Ray Allen was with his workouts. And it was on all levels -- his conditioning, his shooting, his footwork. He was really maniacal about the details.”
In his official retirement notice Tuesday on the Players Tribune website, Allen, 41, penned a letter to his 13-year-old self and tapped into the theme of how passing on alcohol and going out with friends to stay in the gym would eventually all be worth it.
Allen, who played for Milwaukee, Seattle and then won his first title with the Boston Celtics in 2008, had entertained thoughts about a comeback over the last two years but never decided to jump onto a contender.
The Heat tried to lure Allen back even after LeBron James returned to Cleveland shortly after Miami’s loss to San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. But Allen was never interested and instead turned his focus to his five children and opening a fast-food organic restaurant called Grown with his wife, Shannon, in South Miami.
Spoelstra said Tuesday he thought Allen would eventually give playing “a shot again” in “compact minutes.” But it never came to be.
Still, Allen’s legacy and work ethic remains something the Heat admires and passes on. Spoelstra said whenever a new, young player walks through the door, he mentions Allen’s consistent, unique work ethic and how it helped him knock down one of the biggest shots in franchise history at age 38.
“You think about guys like myself who are getting up a little bit in age,” said captain and 14-year veteran Udonis Haslem, 36, who played alongside Allen in his final two seasons in the league with the Heat.
“Then you see Ray, being the first in the gym and the last to leave, riding his bike, jogging, eating right and doing the things that’s he’s done. So I’ve taken a couple of pages out of his book just to continue my career moving forward.”