Shot of the Century: How Ray Allen changed NBA history

2013 NBA Finals - Game Six

Ray Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6 of NBA Finals

Through the course of his 17 year career, Ray Allen has made a lot of three-pointers in his career. As a matter of fact, he has made more three-pointers than anyone else in NBA history: 2,857 in the regular season, and 352 in the playoffs.

Before Danny Green broke his record this year, Allen also held the record for most three-pointers made in the NBA Finals. And through the course of his career as a 10-time All Star, he had more than his share of memorable games, clutch moments, and big shots.

But he saved arguably his biggest three – and one of the biggest threes in NBA history – for Game 6 2013 Finals.

With less than 18 seconds left in regulation, the Heat were down by three points to the Spurs. The Spurs, leading the series 3-2, were 18 seconds away from their fifth NBA championship.

The Larry O’Brien trophy had already been rolled out to the side and the championship pedestal had already been prepared. With 11 seconds left, LeBron James took and missed a three-pointer that would’ve tied the game. Chris Bosh’s outstretched arms grabbed the rebound and immediately, Bosh found Ray Allen on the right corner. Allen, who had also tried to contest for the rebound, had quickly run backwards behind the three-point line. He took a shot. He made the shot.

With five seconds left, the game was tied and then went into overtime. The Heat won. And then won Game seven two days later to be crowned NBA champions for the second consecutive year.

The NBA Finals were one for the ages, a seven game series between two of the finest teams in basketball featuring the best that the NBA has to offer. It was a series that will be talked about for years, perhaps even decades, as one of the greatest Finals matchups of All Time.

It featured superstars playing at their highest level, veterans turning back the clock, and youngsters breaking into the scene. The best player in basketball – LeBron James – shone above all to be named MVP. One of the greatest players in NBA history – Tim Duncan – fought valiantly till the very end. Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade had big moments, Chris Bosh making the hustle plays, Manu Ginobili suffering the rise and fall of an entire career in a matter of games, and the likes of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard confidently exploding on the scene.

And of course, there was Ray Allen, too. The series featured two coaching genius – an experienced mastermind like Gregg Popovich and the young prodigy Eric Spoelstra – turning basketball into the most exciting game of chess, ever. It featured the dominance of the three-point shot, featured highlight-reel dunks, overtimes, and tonnes of breathless moments.

And Game 6… Game 6 was the greatest of them all. As we watched, we knew we were witnessing scenes that would be etched in the NBA historical montages forever. The Spurs were one win away from the title and the Heat needed to win Game 6 to survive and force a Game 7. With the stakes so high, the game tipped off on June 18th at the American Airlines Arena in Miami.

There was no shortage of heroes, and of villains. 37-year-old Tim Duncan, looking to close the series and win the fifth championship to add to his storied career, dominated the post for 25 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, including scoring 13 in a row at one point for the Spurs. Early in the game, Kawhi Leonard made a poster out of Mike Miller. San Antonio’s offence was efficient as always, but Miami hung around and trailed by just six points at halftime.

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6, Chris Bosh #1 and Norris Cole #30 of the Miami Heat celebrate after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win Game Seven of the 2013 NBA Finals

The Spurs extended their lead to 75-65 by the end of the third quarter. Until that point, LeBron James had missed nine of his 12 shots. The Heat had one more quarter to save the game and their season.

And then the fourth quarter happened. Spoelstra inspired his team to tune up on the defensive end as the Heat started to force the Spurs to tough shots and turnovers. LeBron took over, scoring 16 points in the final period and creating – directly or indirectly – a dozen more. Mike Miller hit a three-pointer with one shoe. The Heat came all the way back and took a one point lead in the last minute.

Then the Spurs – led by a big three by Tony Parker – stormed back and turned the tables on the Heat, taking a 94-89 lead with a shade over 29 seconds left. It was all a little too much for many Miami Heat fans, who began a mass exodus instead of sticking by their record-breaking team till the very end, and thus missing the dramatic turn of events that followed.

The turn of events was thus: Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw each, Chris Bosh hustled on an offensive board to get Miami a second chance opportunity, and LeBron James hit a three. And in the game’s penultimate possession, Bosh won the famous offensive rebound and passed it out to Allen.

Ray Allen. The Greatest Three-Point Shooter of All Time. Allen has a legendary work ethic, a work ethic that helped him become an elite NBA star for a decade and remain a useful piece to contending teams for a half dozen years more. He is usually known to be the first to hit the gym for practice or for game-nights, and known to keep working on his shot night in and night out to make his perfect release perfecter. It’s this dedication to excellence that made Allen one of the NBA’s most respected players, that saw him be a star for the Bucks and the Sonics, that made him a part of Boston’s championship-winning Big Three, and that tempted the reigning champions Miami to sign him from their rivals. Through the course of his career, he showcased himself as far more than a three-point specialist, but it was that textbook-form jump-shot that defined his legacy forever.

With five seconds left in the game, Allen did what he had done tens of thousands of times before. In a rush, it wasn’t about the perfect form, the perfect look, or the perfect release anymore. It was about the years of practice and experience which had now become second-nature to him. It was just another three-point shot that would become the biggest shot of his career. He went up and, with the perfect release, took the shot. He made the shot.

The arena – full of the lucky fans who opted to stay in their seats – exploded. The game went into Overtime. It continued being a see-saw battle, until a Ginobili turnover (or some would say, a foul uncalled) had the ball in Ray Allen’s hands again on the free throw line to ice the game. He did. Bosh blocked one last event by Danny Green. 103-100. Game: Miami.

A lot of other factors worked through the course of the seven games for the result to finish with a 4-3 Miami victory, and most of them could be factored to LeBron’s otherworldly performances. But no single moment would prove to be more crucial than Allen’s three. It was a shot that helped the Heat win their third title and second in succession. It was the shot that brought LeBron his second championship, instead of seeing him go one for four in the NBA Finals. It brought Dwyane Wade his third ring, and Allen his second. It blocked the fifth title for Duncan and the Spurs. With just seconds left, it changed the course of history, snatching the trophy out of the hand of the San Antonio Spurs to the Miami Heat.

Ray Allen has hit more threes than anyone in NBA history. It was only right that he was the man responsible for arguably one of the greatest shots of All Time.

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