The line in the sand was as clear as day. On one side, immortality and eternal gratitude in the eyes of a fan base. On the other, a king and a ring. One offered the chance to go down as a hero. The other, a villain.
After mulling it over, Ray Allen decided to try his hand as an antagonist. As some might say, he took the easy way out. He crossed over the line.
Allen's decision to join the Miami Heat on a three-year deal worth $3.09 million per season came as a blow to Celtics fans. If you were browsing through Twitter at the time the news was announced, you saw it first hand. Celtics fans were shocked, saddened, angry, and felt betrayed.
Ray Allen is a traitor. How could he do this? Forget Jesus Shuttlesworth ... Judas Shuttlesworth.
The fact of the matter is this: Ray Allen is not a traitor. Allen was a free agent ... an unrestricted free agent. He had no obligation to re-sign with Boston. What he did was make a decision that he felt comfortable with. Allen wanted to go to Miami, and he was free to do so. Nothing about that makes him a traitor. Basketball is a business. At the end of the day, Allen made a business move.
I'll certainly admit this, though. Ray's decision hurt. It hurt a lot of people. A lot of Celtics lifers felt betrayed, and I can understand why. Allen jumped ship to the Celtics' premier rival of the past two seasons, the team they just lost to in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. That stings.
Nonetheless, Ray is gone, and it's time to reminisce and move forward. Allen's return would have been a nice addition for the Celtics off the bench, but they are well positioned to absorb his loss with the signing of Jason Terry. Having Ray would be nice, but it's not a make-or-break move.
What of Allen's legacy in Boston? Now may not be the best time to issue a final verdict, given that some are still in the process of tossing their No. 20 jerseys in the garbage (some are even burning them, and that's wrong), but he will always have a special place in the hearts of Celtics fans. Allen contributed to the only thing that matters in Boston: winning a championship. Arguments can be made that he was the least important member of the Big Three, but consider the following. Had the draft day trade that sent Allen to Boston (ironically, for Jeff Green) never gone down, Kevin Garnett probably would not have been interested in coming here. Translation, no title.
Ah, and then we come to the Big Three era. With Allen headed to South Beach, it's all over.
What a sad thought. Remember how giddy we all were when Danny Ainge and company pulled the strings to form the new Big Three? We were even giddier when they ended the title drought in 2008 and came within one quarter of bringing home another championship two years later. What a run.
Was the Big Three era a success? You better believe it was. Originally, the goal was to win a couple of championships. A three-year window, they said it was. Well, there we were five years later on the cusp of returning to the NBA Finals, already with one title in hand, searching for a second.
Sounds pretty successful to me.
In some ways, the era isn't completely over. Two of the three biggest cogs (arguably the top two) in Paul Pierce and Garnett remain with the Celtics, and Terry has in essence replaced Allen.
It won't be the same, though. Never again will those three men don the Celtic green together.
We're going to miss you, Ray. Whatever it is you're looking for in Miami (as long as it's not a championship!), I hope you find it. Thank you for your five great years of service. Goodbye.