This opened up a rift that still hasn't healed entirely, but had made great strides in so doing, thanks in large part to the efforts of one man, Paul Pierce.
I don't even care why or if people dislike Ray anymore. He's given us plenty of reasons depending on your philosophy of basketball fandom, and I don't expect everyone to agree about that stuff. But here's what eats me now:
Paul Pierce on Ray Allen on Area 21: " I just felt like we should have had a conversation. … Now it’s uncomfortable.” pic.twitter.com/i2U38h5t0p
Paul went out on a limb more than once to try and get Allen right with the rest of the 2007-08 title team. He didn't have to. When Ray got lost in the wilderness chasing rings, the Truth blazed a path back for him to be welcome in the company and fandom he spurned. Mind you, I am not critiquing his choice to do so. I feel it's important to note that again.
I am saying Ray was a shitty friend and teammate for missing Paul's big night.
I am going to forthright here - Paul seems to be OK with Allen not coming, and my own issues with Ray lies more in how he's diminished his legacy with behavior he was famously advised to avoid as young fictional basketball prospect Shuttlesworth, all the while throwing about how the decision to leave Boston was "a choice I made for my family".
And that's the thing, here, I think. Ray definitely got the short end of the stick despite being - UConn/Boston glasses off - one of the greatest shooters in the history of the game, dangled in trades, and arguably relegated to the bench before it was time. He was crucial in bringing Banner 17 to Boston, and, at least up to that point, a model of professionalism. However, at some point after that Banner, something changed.
Bitterness seemed to consume the man, and several embarrassing incidents eroded his public persona further as cracks in the edifice of his greatness spread like a not-quite-frozen lake with too much weight on it. Ultimately, what I and you and all of us think about the man won't matter much, if at all, in the greater picture.
Even so, I can't imagine events of the last year have done the man much good where it ought to count.
At the cusp of my 42nd year, most of my idols have been ground to dust, and I think I am the better for it. I realize you have to look out for you when all is said and done, and that sometimes, those decisions are going to ruffle feathers. All of that is OK.
But the other thing I have learned is that relationships matter. Real friendships, family, friends-who-become-family - those are the reasons you make those hard decisions, because without them, you just have yourself. This would, you think, be obvious to someone who's arguably greatest moment stemmed from the application of said "Ubuntu" philosophy - a belief in a universal bond connecting all humanity - and that the most important part of making all that hard work actually count for something besides paychecks is simply showing up.
Being there is both simple, and among the most important things in life.
So, Ray, while you will always have a place in my heart - albeit conflicted in recent years - I offer this: apologies and congratulations where the bulk of the conversations revolve around yourself are neither. They are a rejection of the people and communities who helped pave your path to greatness.