Eight-hundred and seventy-one days after he last played in an NBA game, legendary sharpshooter Ray Allen officially retired Tuesday.
“I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game,” reads a letter posted on The Players Tribune. “I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.”
With the announcement, one of the greatest pure shooters in league history has officially left the building — albeit one he hadn’t occupied in two-and-a-half years despite some rampant rumors of a comeback. Allen has never asked to be considered one of the greatest, often reiterating the common refrain of how difficult it is to compare generations.
Here’s why he’ll be remembered among the pantheon of shooting icons.
His three-point record(s)
Aesthetically, there may never be anything like watching Allen pull the trigger from beyond the arc. His average shot release takes 0.73 of a second, according to a Sport Science segment, and his shooting mechanics are unrivaled; eyes locked in on the rim, elbow bent, motion fluid, everything textbook.
“This ball needs to be a part of my body when I shoot,” he once said.
All of this, of course, is why Allen was so lethal: his shot was released in a fraction of a second, and mostly it was pure.
Until Curry knocks him off his mantle, which is projected to be in a few years, Allen will have a record: 2,973 three-pointers made, 413 more than anyone else. Miami’s Josh Richardson hit 53 three-pointers last season, his first in the league. If he keeps that average going, it would take him more than 55 seasons to reach Allen’s career mark.
Beginning with his rookie season, in 1996-97, Allen connected on at least 100 three-pointers in 17 different seasons, an all-time record. He finished his career with 15 consecutive seasons of at least 100 three-pointers made. Curry, for example, entered this season searching for his fifth.
In 2005-06, Allen hit a career-high 269 treys while playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, turning his shot chart into a work of art.
That single-season record lasted eight years until Curry bested it. It has since fallen to fifth on the all-time chart. In terms of percentage, Allen’s 40.2 percent clip is tied for 38th all time, but considering he hoisted 7,429, nearly 1,000 more than Reggie Miller, who ranks second, that ranking comes with an asterisk.
He didn’t age poorly, either, shooting above league average in points per shot and field goal percentage in three of his final five seasons from both corners, and four of his final five seasons on above-the-break three-pointers.
Reliable free-throw shooting
Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Allen’s textbook form was useful at the free-throw line.
Allen’s 89.4 percent career free-throw percentage ranks seventh-best all-time. He eclipsed 90 percent from the stripe in 10 seasons, more than any other player in league history.
Of the 145 instances of a player shooting at least 90 percent from the line while attempting 100 free throws in a single season, Allen is responsible for 6.9 percent of them.
With 28 seconds on the clock — 28 seconds away from losing an NBA title — and a four-point deficit, Miami’s odds of winning Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals were 66 to 1.
You know the rest: Miami cuts the deficit to three, then, with less than 15 seconds remaining, LeBron James misses a contested three-pointer. Chris Bosh rebounds the missed attempt and kicks it out to Allen, who, while backpedaling, manages to situate his feet behind the arc and bury a game-tying three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining to force overtime.
“Bang! Tie game,” Mike Breen erupts on the call.
Miami goes on to win the game and the championship. “The Shot” is a moment that was stand the test of time, one that will rest alongside Michael Jordan’s step-back versus the Utah Jazz, Jerry West’s 60-foot prayer against the New York Knicks and Magic Johnson’s baby sky hook versus the Boston Celtics.
A player ahead of his time
That Allen has previously attended the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference seems fitting of a player who was, in many ways, a precursor for the league’s current landscape.
He spaced the floor, pulling defenders away from the paint and toward the perimeter, long before gravity was a quantifiable metric. His rookie season in Milwaukee, Allen made 36.1 percent of his team’s three-pointers; the Bucks made a league-low 324 of them. The Miami Heat shot a league-high 1,865 three-pointers that season, a number that would’ve ranked 21st in 2015-16.
Allen cut his teeth before the rise of analytics led to a leaguewide influx of three-pointers, before his on-court mastery could be properly assessed. FiveThirtyEight named him one of the 10 original kings of adjusted plus-minus less than a month ago.
“Sometimes you’ll think you’re out of your league,” he wrote. “But you’ll keep showing up every day, putting in the work.”
He did just that, and the NBA will long remember him for it.