You could tell there’s some sort of repressed disappointment in his voice, the type that comes from the type of breaking news that no one really wants to hear.
“Ray Allen’s signing with--”
My brother finally looks up from his phone, as if to emphasize the sorrowful finality of what he was about to say. Had I not known we were talking about Ray Allen, I probably would’ve thought some semi-distant relative had died.
“Ray Allen’s signing with the Heat.”
I wanted to react with a ceaseless barrage of f*cks and sh*ts, and whatever else people vomit out when they find out humanity consists entirely of soulless heathens. I wanted to rip Allen to shreds for his blatant heartlessness for not being loyal, for not sticking with his boys, for fraternizing with the enemy, and for being an all-around Class A wad of dickery. For someone who seemingly represented all that was right with basketball, here was that same person joining the ranks of all that was wrong, and maybe even evil.
But I didn’t. I just kind of sat there, dumbfounded. The irrepressible, “f*ck you Ray Allen” type hate had decided to skip town, overshadowed by a feeling of understandable disappointment. Nothing left in the tank sort of thing, where the only real conclusion is that what had happened, while unfortunate and seemingly unjust, was inevitable.
When LeBron took his talents to South Beach and joined forces with two of the league’s top 15 players (lets say pre-Heat Bosh was in the top 15), he attempted to manufacture a monopoly. By principle, monopolies are designed to squash competition, making it all but impossible for another group to challenge their supremacy. Much of the hate from LeBron’s decision can be traced back to this simple idea, because the concept of a monopoly isn’t exactly homies with competition, with close contests, and with epic seven game battle royales. Monopolies are about cruising to victory unchallenged. They’re about 20 point blowouts, and they’re about pushing the boundaries of organizational potential. Which is all great and exciting, except that the NBA isn’t a computer company crusading into the limitless depths of undiscovered opportunity. Its a league where you have to beat the other team, and in turn, the other great player. By forming the superfriends, LeBron went against the simple narrative of man vs. man, and by doing so, threatened the very nature of how the NBA operates.
This is why many of us who weren’t members of Camp LeBron suddenly gravitated towards the Celtics. Even though they were assembled in similar fashion, they somehow represented something different. If LeBron and Wade were trying to win by virtue of a one on one mad skillz exhibition, the Celtics were the consummate team. They got things done not in spite of great talent, but in spite of their unhealthy obsessions of doing whatever it takes, no matter the personal cost. The veteran mantra was a nice feel-good storyline to add to the mix, and the Celtics suddenly turned into the anti-Heat. They gave us an outlet, however artificial, to celebrate the NBA “how it was,” even though “how it was” is really just something we made up to retroactively counteract “what we feared it might become.”
Because the Celtics had a proven track record of beating LeBron, they represented one of the few bastions of hope against the Heat-ocracy. Accordingly, the Celtics beating the Heat turned into this sort of righteous quest; Rondo and his on court Magic, Pierce and his swag, Garnett and his dirty work, and Allen and his unquestioned clutchness and professionalism, all banding together for one last charge. The movies would’ve had this team win Game 7 at the buzzer, no question. At the end of the day, it was just a story that was very easy to root for.
When you look at the Celtics and Heat in these terms, it’s impulsive (and seemingly logical) to hate Allen’s guts for signing with Miami. It comes off as not only traitorous, but it straight up reeks of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Which, funnily enough, is really the core of what the anti-LeBron movement is all about. If the Celtics were the team that was supposed to prevent the monopoly, what does it say when one of their best players and team leaders--although aging--joins that monopoly?
The problem lies in the fact that this whole anti-LeBron, anti-monopoly ideology is that for over 90% of the time, the Celtics exist as a team outside of the confines of playing the Heat. Sure Miami is probably their stiffest competition, but for the most part, they’re just one of 29 other teams they need to be better than. Meaning that they, like any other team, want to assemble a team that gives them the best chance to win. And by signing Jason Terry, it was clear that the aging Ray Allen wasn't exactly in the Celtic's plans.
Whether this is “right” or “wrong” on the Celtics part--even if they reportedly offered Allen significantly more money--has nothing to do with it. But to expect Ray Allen to stay with the Celtics, if even at all possible, is just silly. Its like moving out of the house you and your wife live in so that you could spend time with your new mistress, while still expecting your wife (who now doesn’t live with you because you chose to start f*cking Jason Terry) to stay loyal to you.
Taking all this into account, the only only thing we have left is figuring out what's best for Ray Allen. If his priority is a championship, there are only really two needs to consider--what team will have him, and what team gives him the best chance to win. Being that the Miami Heat fit both criteria pretty awesomely, signing with the Heat was pretty much a no-brainer. A gut-wrenching, sh*ttily terrible no-brainer for C's fans, but still a no-brainer.
Will Allen in a Heat uniform be a bit difficult to watch? Probably. But if you’re a Celtics fan, to not want what’s best for Allen--especially considering all he’s done for you over the past few years--is downright selfish. Respect the man, and respect his right to get what’s his. The trick now is to figure out how the f*ck your team is gonna prevent him from getting that ring.
Photo S/G from Urban Daily