News of Ray Allen’s retirement from the NBA hit people pretty hard. It’s not everyday that a true legend leaves their sport on such a high note. The two-time champion, 10 time all-star and the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader was still being looked at as a value add for a number of franchises – most notably the national champion Cavaliers. While we all would have loved to see Ray Allen play alongside the greatest player of his generation again (LeBron James. No question. You disagree? Leave a comment), at 41-years-old, Allen wisely decided that it was time to put a final button on his 19-year career.
And oh what a button it is.
Allen signed off on his epic career with an equally epic and moving letter written to his 13-year-old self, published in The Player’s Tribune. In this uniquely personal and heartfelt letter, he doles out all the sage-like advice and wisdom he wished he had received back then. And although he cannot actually go back in time and give his younger self this letter, his note does offer us a glimpse at what it takes to make a true champion. Can you guess what it is?
I’ll give you a hint – it’s a ton of hard work.
From growing up a military brat, being trucked around from town to town and never getting to take root, to his meteoric rise to stardom at UConn and then the Bucks, Allen’s story really has only one major through line – keeping your head down, putting in the hard work, and not letting success get to your head.
Frankly, what makes Allen’s story so inspirational is exactly how few “miracle moments” were involved in making his career such a success. It isn’t just a string of being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time. It’s about grinding it out and creating your own opportunities.
And that is the lesson we all need to hear right now. Don’t sit around waiting for destiny to land on your doorstep. Get up off your ass and chase that destiny down. And if it looks like you aren’t getting any closer to reaching it, run faster. Work harder. Push yourself. And when you can’t push yourself anymore, find someone else to push you (like Allen had in Jim Calhoun at UConn).
So next time you see Julio Jones make a miraculous one handed catch, or watch Stephen Curry sink an unthinkably deep three pointer under heavy pressure, don’t think about their raw, god-given talent. Think about every missed catch, every ill-timed jump, every bricked shot that it took to build up to that “miracle” you just witnessed. As Ray Allen so eloquently stated, “Listen: God doesn’t care whether you make your next jump shot. God will give you a lot of things in life, but he’s not going to give you your jump shot. Only hard work will do that.”
Every true success is built on the back of a thousand failures. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and fail until you succeed.