Top 5 Boston Celtics players of the 21st century

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett /
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Boston Celtics
Ray Allen (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Honorable Mention: Ray Allen

Oh, Ray Ray.

We want to celebrate you. And you deserve to be celebrated.

For goodness’ sake, the 2008 Boston Celtics would not have a championship without Ray Allen. He came to Boston at the peak of his powers, and sacrificed significantly to become the player Boston needed him to be.

And so what if he made his living just running off screens and shooting? Allen was never below the 87th percentile among wings in points per shot attempt in his time in Boston, and was in the 97th percentile or higher in three seasons, per Cleaning the Glass. That’s a crazy level of efficiency. That shooting unlocked a lot for a Boston Celtics offense that jumped from 28th the year before Allen arrived to 9th with him.

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What a shame it is, then, that Googling Ray Allen nowadays just leads to a never-ending tsunami of drama.

Allen felt he was getting frozen out during that last season, and didn’t like the way the coaching staff handled it. Rajon Rondo is mad that Allen joined the Miami Heat, the team the Celtics were at war with. Paul Pierce was hurt that Allen didn’t give him a heads up about his free agency decision after years of forming a brotherhood, and called Allen out for not attending ex-teammates charity events. Kevin Garnett has thrown around the phrases “loyalty” and “moving on” when talking about him. It all smacks of reality show-esque drama and it’s a crying shame.

Allen ultimately just misses this list, and it’s painful to leave him out. His work ethic was legendary, and he was a giant contributor on that championship team. But it’s just tough, because a list like this is ultimately grading players’ legacies, and the narrative surrounding Allen’s legacy is just so muddled. As much as we want to evaluate greatness solely based off a player’s on-court contributions, don’t you have to factor in the fact that the entire rest of that championship team wants nothing to do with him? Don’t you factor in him helping your enemy defeat you, at least to some extent?

Even if you don’t ding Allen for not being beloved, you’re kind of dinging him by elevating other players Boston has more love for (which is a totally natural thing to do). It sucks to do. It feels like betrayal. But in the subjective world of defining “greatness,” these are the kind of choices that have to be made. That’s the way it will be until something breaks and the love is put back into this relationship.