Five years after his unceremonious exit from Boston, has Ray Allen’s relationship with the Celtics, the franchise to which he helped bring a championship in 2008, been mended?
Nope. Not if Gordon Hayward’s jersey number choice is any indication.
Hayward will wear No. 20 for the Celtics, the same number Allen wore for five seasons from 2007 to 2012:
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 14, 2017
The team’s decision to allow Hayward to wear No. 20 almost certainly means Allen’s jersey won’t be retired by the Celtics.
Allen came to Boston via trade in 2007, and joined All-Star Paul Pierce, who had been wasting away on mediocre teams with little help. The two were then joined by Kevin Garnett to form a Big Three — or, rather, what at the time was the Big Three.
Allen had already hit the back half of his career, but he enjoyed five solid (and three or four very good) seasons in Boston. He made three All-Star teams. Most importantly, he won one title, and nearly snatched a second.
But in 2012, as a free agent, Allen abruptly left for Miami, having reportedly turned down more money from the Celtics to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. His former Celtics teammates, and specifically Kevin Garnett, weren’t happy. Garnett effectively ostracized Allen, giving him the silent treatment and refusing his in-game greeting the following year.
And the former Celtic crew is still at odds with Allen. He wasn’t present at an unofficial 2008 title team reunion. “People don’t understand that this is real life for us,” Garnett said on his “Area 21” show during this past season’s playoffs. “And the situation with Ray is very sensitive. I think that when we all talked about doing this reunion tour, we was talking about guys who we consider loyal and part of this group. Just being honest, my two cents, man: when Ray decided to go to the Heat, I feel like he moved on, and he went to pursue another ring, and he got another ring. Shout out to him. And that’s it. It wasn’t no other Wizards, it wasn’t no other Heat, it wasn’t no other — it was all Celtics invited to this.”
“It was more than basketball for us… It felt like a sour breakup.”
Pierce, KG, Rondo, Big Baby & Perk share their thoughts on Ray Allen. pic.twitter.com/8JYRWmxm0i
— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) May 9, 2017
Hayward wore No. 20 in Utah and in college at Butler, so it’s not like the Celtics urged him to take No. 20 to make their feelings toward Allen clear. But Boston probably wouldn’t have a 21st century NBA title if it weren’t for Allen. And thus, if not for the breakup, all three of the Big Three would presumably have their numbers retired.
But it appears the relationship between the Celtics and Allen is still fractured, and it appears Allen’s number will never hang beside Celtic legend Paul Pierce’s in the TD Garden rafters.