SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — With the same poise he displayed throughout his NBA career, Ray Allen closed Friday night’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony with an eloquent speech in which he reveled in the accomplishments of his two championship teams and only praised key members of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 title squad.
In a week during which Allen’s fractured relationship with some from that 2008 Celtics team, including Rajon Rondo, hovered over his induction, Allen stayed above the fray. He suggested that former teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will soon join him in Springfield, and praised Danny Ainge for assembling that Big Three.
Doc Rivers, who coached the Celtics to the 2008 NBA crown, said it “really hurts” him to witness the icy relationships among his former players, especially ahead of Ray Allen’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction.
Ainge and Mike Longabardi, an assistant coach on that 2008 title team, were among those in attendance for Friday’s ceremony at Springfield’s Symphony Hall in which 13 new inductees were enshrined.
Allen’s first reference to the Celtics drew loud cheers from fans seated in the balcony.
“In my 12th year, I paired up with a couple of Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett,” Allen said after the cheers quieted. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I’d end up on that [title] stage.”
Allen noted how difficult it was to win titles but kept the focus of his speech on thanking everyone on his basketball odyssey and suggested that hard work was what ultimately delivered him to the stage.
“I don’t believe in talent. I’m here because I worked hard all my life,” Allen said. “Without that work, no one in this room would know who I am besides my family. So to all the kids around the world watching, paying attention, and aspiring to be like one of us, or even on this stage one day, put the work in and watch the magical ride you’ll go on.”
Allen made 2,973 career 3-pointers, the most in NBA history. He won two titles (the other with the Heat in 2013) and was named an All-Star three times for three different teams: the Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics and the Bucks.
Ray Allen suggested 2008 Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would be enshrined soon.
Allen opened his speech by noting he wanted to “be like Mike growing up,” in reference to his idol, Michael Jordan, then praised presenter Reggie Miller by calling him the “best shooter I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Allen might have been alluding to his messy Boston exit to join the rival Heat when he listed off all the cities he played in — Storrs, Connecticut (for the University of Connecticut, from which he was the No. 5 overall pick in the 1996 draft), Seattle, Boston and Miami — and then suggested that the only thing hard was leaving those cities.
Allen drew headlines earlier this week when he suggested that he didn’t expect to be congratulated by his former teammates from the 2008 squad.
During an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump on Friday, Pierce admitted the book that Allen released earlier this year had “rubbed others [on the 2008 team] the wrong way,” but congratulated Allen on his Hall induction.
“[The differences with the 2008 team are] for him and the other guys to figure out. I have no problem with Ray,” said Pierce, who brokered peace with Allen last summer. “Congratulations. Everything he’s gotten, he’s deserved. His name’s gonna be up there forever and I congratulate you, Ray.”
During a visit to Boston on Tuesday, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers expressed dismay at not being able to repair the fractured relationship of his 2008 team. Rivers gushed about that squad, saying if he had one game for his life, he’d pick that group to win it.
On Friday, Garnett posted a picture of that 2008 title team — including himself clutching the Larry O’Brien Trophy next to Allen — and Rivers’ quote about the team on his Area 21 Twitter page. It was captioned, “Ubuntu,” the rallying cry of togetherness that the 2008 Celtics embraced.
But Allen’s speech encapsulated a night in which fellow inductees such as Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash kept the focus on thanking those who aided their journey.
Coaching legend Lefty Driesell stole the stage with a laugh-filled speech in which he played off his flubs by joking about how he’s 86 years old. Later he told the audience, “The older you get, all you do is try to remember names and go to the bathroom.”
Nash encouraged kids to embrace their passions while noting, “You’ll never be more alive than when you give something everything you have.”