Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals was a bit of a coming out party for Ray Allen.
He's not a flashy player or a controversial public figure. He plays in a relatively small market. But as more people know now than ever before, he got game. As Dr. Jack Ramsay said recently, Ray Allen is moving up in the class of two-guards in the NBA right now.
Ray Allen was a pretty good college player. He was always there, consistent but never truly outstanding. He went pro after his junior year, three years before the University of Connecticut won the national title. You sort of assume he was on that team but it was Richard Hamilton, another nondescript shooting guard, who led that group of Huskies.
Ray Allen is letting his playing do the talking and Thursday night was an oration.
He is one of the Big Three in Milwaukee and has been all year. He's probably the most important one, but his demeanor keeps his profile low. He doesn't have a nickname like his teammate, Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. He hasn't won a championship like another teammate, Sam Cassell. He's probably not even as famous as his coach, George Karl.
But Allen has been a Dream Teamer. He made quite an impression as Jesus Shuttlesworth in "He Got Game." Still, Ray Allen has to be the most low-profile actor to ever play Jesus.
He was drafted the same year as his current playoff nemesis, Allen Iverson. That draft also included Kobe Bryant, Stephon Marbury and Antoine Walker, all of whom have considerably more flash than Allen. Allen told me that his mother would kill him if he got a tattoo. Does that sound like your typical NBA star?
In his time in the league, Ray Allen has been considered a bit soft, at least by the media. He's "just a jump shooter." He does take offense to the "soft" label but seems to be taking the long way in dispelling it. He won't complain in a press conference or interview about it. He'll let his playing do the talking -- and Thursday night was an oration. I bet the Sixers don't think he's soft.
Maybe none of this matters. Maybe Ray Allen is content to let life come to him and make the most of his chances. In the NBA, you make your bones in the playoffs anyway, like Allen did Thursday night.
The memories of old coaches and players and writers are filled with the antics of colorful guys with nicknames who never could play that well when the game or the season was on the line. Maybe all Allen is doing is making sure he's not one of those guys.
So far, so good.