June 18, 2008: In our May 2008 feature on Celtics guard Ray Allen, the seven-time NBA All-Star talked about the pressure to stay strong during the rigorous NBA season.
In Game 6 all his hard work paid off, as Allen sunk 26 points, tying a Finals record with seven three pointers, en route to his first championship. Here's another look at how he got there.
Guess which of the Celtics' trio may be the "fittest"? Wrong. That would be sharpshooting guard Ray Allen. With an old-school work ethic, the All-Star employs a diverse workout strategy that just may earn him a championship ring.
Four pounds. Four measly pounds. For Ray Allen, a seven-time NBA All-Star and sharpshooting guard, the weight felt like an anchor each time he drove to the hoop and tried to explode at the rim, each time he chased an opponent from one side of the floor to the other, each time he weaved and bobbed through screens in an effort to elude a defender.
A pound or four doesn't matter to most of us. But to Allen, a veteran who had already defied the standards for athletic longevity, the extra ounces felt like another teammate hugging his midsection. "People always say, you don't need to lose weight, you look good, you look in shape," Allen says. "But when you're running up and down the floor and have to run from one sideline to the other, stop on a dime, and shoot a jumper or get to the hole and explode, you really feel the weight that shouldn't be on you."
That was two years ago, when Allen decided to lose his extra weight. The results today are obvious. At 32 years old, Allen is enjoying a renaissance as one-third of Boston's new Big Three, joining Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as the core of the Boston Celtics' sudden revival. One season after losing a near-franchise-high 49 games (and enduring an 18-game losing streak), the Cs may now be the NBA's best team not named the Los Angeles Lakers. Playing unselfishly on offense and stifling defense, Boston surged to the league's best earlyseason record and established itself as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals.
While much of the credit for the resurgence has been laid at the arrival of 11-time All-Star Kevin Garnett from Minnesota in an off-season blockbuster trade, and Pierce's revival and influence, Allen, who arrived in a draft-day trade with Seattle, has contributed his share. He's averaging nearly 20 points per game and offering more-than-solid numbers in field-goal shooting, rebounds, and assists. Even so, the Cs vowed since the start of the season that this year isn't about individual glory. "It's not a stat-sheet season for us," Allen says. "We came together and said, 'Look, we're not going to average 28 or 30 points. We just have to do things to make the team better, and when we win, we'll celebrate winning."
The key to making that happen is all about fitness, especially for Allen-a workout warrior and nutrition fanatic who spends his time off doing things like biking 30 miles through the Seattle hills, just for fun. "As far as dedication to his body-stretching, massage, working out, all that stuff-as long as I've been in the league, Ray's the best I've ever seen," says teammate Brian Scalabrine. "He just does what needs to be done."
For Allen, whose pregame meal always consists of chicken and rice, that means maintaining 4% body fat, and working out year-round, including during the season when most players are simply trying to survive the debilitating 82-game schedule. To put it bluntly, he simply will not allow those four pounds to return.
Maybe that dedication is the reason why the 6'5" Allen's pro career, which began in 1996, has lasted so long. Most players can't survive the rigors of the NBA for more than a decade, overcoming numerous injuries like the double-heel surgery that sidelined him for 26 games in '06, without doing everything they can to maintain their bodies. But Allen has learned enough lessons over the years to ultimately become his own trainer. "I witnessed Michael Jordan talk about the need to stay strong over 82 games," Allen says. "You have to take your hits and be able to absorb them -not only so you don't get hurt, but so you don't feel beat down the next day."