Nobody cares how many championships Ray Allen is going to win.
They harp, argue, debate, and rage on about the number of rings on the fingers of the guy that Allen is riding with. In a wicked type of loyalty, Ray Allen, noted traitor of Kevin Garnett’s Boston Celtics, has remained by the side of the King. After winning several championships, Allen – coupled with failing knees – is now considering signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers despite having to prove nothing.
Part of what makes this a loyal venture is that Allen is signing with LeBron James, a player globally gravitational, but whose legacy was single-handedly altered by a single shot, his single shot. Allen doesn’t owe LeBron anything, and vice versa, but it’s neat – depending on how you feel about buddy-buddy relationships – to witness this flick until the credits are forced to roll. But Allen’s pragmatic approach could simply be that he realizes there’s only one player in the world that could still maximize what he has left – a knockdown jumper with declining dribble-drive and defensive skillset – while contending for a championship in a comfortable environment. Why would Allen go somewhere like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Memphis Grizzlies if he could play with LeBron James and not have to worry about any external issues?
The twisted irony here, of course, remains Garnett’s assertion that Allen turned his back onto those Celtics, now a shell of their former shell. But something about Allen – his loyalty, pragmatic approach, or just undying love and unwillingness to let go of the game – has led him to a greater situation than his hated ex-teammate. Garnett is stuck in purgat — I mean, Brooklyn while Paul Pierce shockingly signed with the Washington Wizards. Where was the loyalty pointed back toward Garnett and Pierce?
There’s never a static notion of loyalty in the NBA, or any sport. Guys like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki sign cheaper deals to help the team because they’re lifers on those respective squads, likely to receive work way after their retirement. This isn’t to mention that they’ve already piled up the paper in their prime. I don’t think Allen’s choice to follow LeBron is strictly a new version of loyalty by any means. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t taking into account what LeBron James’ situation means to him and how he can help. The two-way street functions perfectly for Allen (and Mike Miller, too!). With a barren cupboard of floor-spacers and inexperienced players on the roster, the necessity for Allen’s services is not so much a service to LeBron’s need for loyalty, but a need for a need.
We won’t care how many rings Ray Allen finishes his career with, unless there’s a couple more down the line and he begins to rival Robert Horry. But Allen still has his pragmatic loyalty. Still undecided about the future, Allen’s decision seemingly comes down to helping out the LeBron James-led (literally, with the front office likely heeding his every wish) or hanging up the laces of the greatest shooter of all time. There’s really nothing left for Ray Allen in today’s NBA. He has the rings. He owns Jesus Shuttlesworth. He holds one of the most iconic poses of all time to go with a legendary storybook quote. So while it may seem pragmatically plausible that Allen is doing this for himself, there’s a certain level of loyalty in postponing the wooden chair on the front porch lifestyle for one more shot around the league with his buddy.