NEWARK, N.J. -- Ray Allen hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history last June when he made a 3-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to force overtime. The speed and execution of the shot -- Allen figuring out where the 3-point line was without looking down -- was breathtaking and instantly became iconic and the crux point of the entire series between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
There’s been a small outcry, however, that the shot should've been disallowed. Specifically, that Allen traveled after receiving an outlet pass from Chris Bosh before the release. The leader of this faction has been Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who has given several interviews -- here's one -- over the last several months insisting it was a travel.
This week, the NBA referees are having their annual preseason conference at a hotel outside New York City. This is an intricate event. Plays from last season are broken down frame-by-frame, and they analyze positioning and obscure scenarios. Fans probably wouldn't believe the level of detail that goes into this job.
On Thursday, the league invited some members of the media to look at some of the work the officials have been doing and discuss minor rule changes and adjustments. One thing that came up was Allen’s huge shot. Was it or wasn't it a travel?
The answer from the best in the world was definitive: No.
Barry and others feel that Allen took three steps, one more than allotted, before shooting the ball. Looking at it frame-by-frame, indeed there is some gray area there. Under league rules, a player is permitted two steps after the “gather.”
The subjective issue is the gather. Allen was moving backward and it appears when his hand first touched Bosh’s pass, Allen had a foot on the ground. However, under the officials’ judgment, Allen did not have possession and had not completed the “gather” when that occurred.
Once Allen had corralled the ball, he did indeed take another one step back behind the 3-point line and then his last step to position himself to shoot before letting the ball go. Gather while moving back, then two steps, then the shot, officials say.
This opinion will probably not sway Barry and his supporters on the matter. Barry’s point has been that Allen gathered and then took three steps.
“There's no question about it, just watch the replay that they showed from the overhead camera,” Barry told SB Nation earlier this month. “He catches the ball with one foot down, steps back, brings the foot that he had down back to shoot the ball. That's traveling, you can't move your pivot foot without dribbling.”
The “gather” is arguable and will be forever. But the experts in the field, and three of them were working the game that night, say it was clean.
If anything, the officials made an error that hurt the Heat and favored the Spurs moments later. Gregg Popovich stormed on the court and yelled at officials after they stopped the game following Allen’s shot to check whether Allen’s feet were behind the 3-point line. In fact, Joey Crawford stepped in and grabbed the ball to make sure the Spurs could not even inbound.
Popovich, who was out of timeouts, was furious his team wasn't allowed to play on and try to rush up the court to use the 5.2 seconds left to attempt to win the game. Neither team had a timeout left.
After the review, Popovich was permitted to substitute Tim Duncan into the game -- he was infamously not in on the play because Popovich was concerned about covering the Heat’s shooters and Bosh ended up getting an offensive rebound -- when that should not have been allowed.
That is the only thing the officials regret from the moment.