MIAMI – Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber have all retired. Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash and Paul Pierce looked every year of their age this season.
All of them were once contemporaries of Ray Allen. And if Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals was any indication, Allen could outlast them all – if he wants.
Less than two months from his 39th birthday, Allen looks like he still has plenty of life left in his legs. He made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Miami Heat surge past the Indiana Pacers for a 99-87 victory and a 2-1 lead in the East finals.
But regardless of moments like Saturday night, Allen said he can't see himself playing in his 40s.
"Do I want to get to the point where you tell me, 'Look man, you ain't looking good out there'?" Allen said. "Do you want to get to that point and people start saying that about you?
"When Barry Sanders retired, we were all like, 'What?' He only played 10 years. We wanted him to play more. But he left on his terms, he was great. Ten was probably early. But you don't want to get to the point where you are on a downside and everybody's like, 'You don't seem like you have it anymore.' "
Allen had it on Saturday. As usual, Allen shot 150 3-pointers before the game with teammate James Jones. He felt cold midway through the third quarter and was scoreless, but found his rhythm at the free-throw line when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
"To feel the ball in the hands for any shooter, that's all you can ask for," Allen said.
Allen made his first 3-pointer with 8:21 left in the fourth quarter to give Miami a 79-74 lead. His third 3-pointer put the Heat up 11 points. His final one put away the game.
"He got it going, and we just want to continue to find him," said LeBron James, who pumped his arms and yelled, "Boom, Boom, Boom," after Allen's last 3-pointer.
It was just another on a long list of clutch shots Allen has made in his career. Nine of Allen's 19 3-pointers this postseason have come in the fourth quarter – a time that he calls "my territory, my playground."
"In the fourth quarter the guy is guarding me and thinking I'm just biding time. I'm not. I'm over here think how can I have an effect on offense," Allen said.
The younger Heat players also look to Allen for advice and have nicknamed him, "The Committee." When the Heat need a debate decided, they often turn to "The Committee" of one in Allen.
"They make fun of me and say sly little things about my age like I played with Moses Malone," Allen said. "It's funny. But they all respect me and ask me questions. …If there is anything that needs to be resolved they say, 'Committee, what's your take on this?' "
When the racist comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling went public last month, Allen made sure the Heat players were comfortable speaking out.
"I wanted to not play because everything that was going on," Allen said. "I had so many opinions on what [the Clippers] should do. I wanted everyone to know it wasn't just a Clippers issue, it was a league-wide issue, all of us. Some guys were saying it sucks that they had to deal with what they were dealing with. But I was like if you're playing in the NBA, this is an issue that we all have to deal with because it concerns all of us.
"I wanted everyone to know that we had to take a stand because we had to fight. We are part of a union and we had to make sure it's all cleaned up. …We had to make sure we had their backs."
Allen has typically played this season at 203 pounds. After dropping to 197 recently, he added pasta to his usual chicken-and-salad dinner because "my body told me to eat more." Allen missed only 12 regular-season games the past two seasons and said he feels great.
Allen believes he could still average 15-plus points on some NBA teams. He still enjoys playing, but in the back of his head are words from Michael Jordan, who retired for good at 40.
"Do I want to play at a high level? Or do you just want to exist on team where you win or maybe not?" Allen said. "Those are the questions you have to ask yourself. It's more than just the game. It's preparing every day.
"That's probably one of the things that I learned from Jordan. He said it wasn't the games he wanted to retire from. It was the preparation for each game. He was glad to say I don't want to do this anymore."
Allen will be an unrestricted free agent after making $3.2 million this season. This offseason he will decide with his wife Shannon if he should keep playing or retire after a possible third NBA title.
"I just go into the summer and sit and think about it," Allen said. "I'm not far away."
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