I’m a short-term guy. I just look at my immediate future, conquer what I have to and move forward from there.
Whatever happens, happens.
Leadership comes in a lot of different forms and fashions. I think leading by example is the best lead. You don’t have to say anything. Words are just words. People pay more attention to what a man does than what he says.
I don’t really know what George Karl means when he says he’s looking for ‘a team leader.’ Any year that we won here, nothing was said and everything was all great. But the minute we start losing games, then we need ‘a leader.’ Then we need trades. Then negativity quickly gets thrown into the whole fray of the equation. Same team, same situation, but you lose a couple games and all of a sudden you need ‘a leader.’
In sports, every team is different. Sometimes you don’t need a leader – nobody has to say anything and everyone knows their job. On some teams, five people always have to be on the other six or seven. And that’s hard to do because everyone’s a professional and some people don’t want to be told what to do, period. Some people don’t want to be led. Other people wait to be told what to do – they’re followers.
To me, you don’t do anything different when you’re losing. You stay the same person. You work through the trying times. Everybody knows what their job is. I can’t do four guys’ jobs – I can only do my job and try to do it to the best of my ability. When you start winning, then everything’s great.
I’m at the stage now where I’m not a young man anymore. At 27, I’m still young, but I’m an adult. I’m engaged. I have a 10-year-old daughter. And I have to make decisions based on that. I can’t be selfish anymore and just think about myself and what I want to do – stay out late, get up late, whatever. I have to make decisions based on who I brought into this world. More people should think about what their kids need and what they have to do to raise their kids right. That’s what I think ails this country – maybe society in general.
When I was a kid, you always had a curfew. You were afraid of your parents, so you did what your parents said. You went to school and you did the right things. When the school sent a detention slip home in the mail, you would rush to get home and try and get to the mailbox before your parents so you wouldn’t get a whippin’ when they saw that detention slip. Those were the things that frightened us into being good students and good kids. Nowdays, I don’t think kids care about that. They curse out their teachers and say, ‘Go ahead, send it home.’ I think that if kids feared their parents, like I did growing up, things would be better.
When you see what happened in Milwaukee last year, when all those kids killed that guy – beat him to death – those were 12- and 13-year-old kids, and now they’ve got a murder rap. They were out at 11, 12 at night. Where were their parents? Where were those parents who should be making sure their kids are in the house asleep, like my mom did for me? If I was up at 11 at night, I was on my way to bed. I was always in the house.
That’s something we have to pay more attention to. The better you take care of your kids, the better they’re going to be to other people. If you don’t take care of your kids, you could end up having a serial killer on your hands. That’s what ails society. It all starts with raising your kids.
Players on other teams always ask me, ‘How can you live in Milwaukee?’ And I tell them, truthfully, if I lived in L.A. I’d probably do the same things I do in Milwaukee, except the weather would be nicer and I could cook out in my backyard more.
When my family comes to a game, they’re happy and they’re up and cheering, and afterward they’re ready to go out and find something else to do. But I’m tired and ready to go to sleep. For them, the excitement is still there. For me, it’s like, ‘You guys can go out. I’m going to go home and go to bed.’ People don’t realize what I need to do to rest up for a game or how I feel after a game. I always need to make sure to take care of my body.
As professional athletes, we do a lot of traveling. So when the season’s over, I like to just sit back and relax. During the season, I get up at my house, drive down to practice and do the things that make me a great basketball player. When the season’s over, I want to be able to get up in that same house and sit in my backyard and enjoy some green grass and have a barbecue. Those are the things I dream about during the season – just sitting in my backyard, playing with the dog and having a barbecue.
In a way, it’s been easier for me to live in a place where I don’t have any distractions that keep me from just relaxing and taking a load off my body.
Milwaukee has a lot of problems because it’s such an old-school city. When you drive from the airport to Downtown, there’s so many issues that could be addressed as far as the aesthetics of the city – making it look more beautiful, more appealing. I was upset when Milwaukee put the baseball stadium way out there. They could have improved the city so much by putting it Downtown. It would have brought tourism to the city.
The city has a Downtown that’s ready to be souped up. You go out any time in Downtown Milwaukee and there are maybe 10, 11 people on the street. There’s nothing to be down there for. There are no big stores. For most of your shopping, you have to go to Chicago. There should be something Downtown that says, ‘Come visit!’ And I think Milwaukee’s sleeping on that. And it disappoints me.
A lot of people couldn’t function if 15 other people were watching them at their job every day. If 15 people were in a room watching you do your job, and if they booed at you when you did something wrong, it would be nerve-racking. But you’d get used to it.
When I first started playing in front of a large number of people, it was in the high school playoffs. We played in front of 6,000 or 7,000 people. Once I started doing that, it was like everything else became a cakewalk. People are always watching you, but it doesn’t change what you’re doing – you just have more people watching. Acting in movies is no different – you’re only doing what you’re asked to do, you’re just doing your job.
I don’t like getting booed. When you get booed on the road, you expect it, but getting booed by your own fans at home, I think that’s a no-no in sports. It shouldn’t happen. If you have guys on your team who are doggin’ it – just complete jerks, bad examples of athletes – then it’s understandable. But you’re gonna get beat sometimes. You’re gonna get blown out sometimes. Some years you’re just not that good. And when you’re not, you still have to stick together.
On our team, if we’re not happy with each other, I’m not going to boo or yell or try to demoralize my teammates and make them feel bad about themselves. You have to encourage people. Encouragement is the best medicine for anything. If somebody does something wrong, you encourage them to do it better next time. You don’t sit there and berate them. You can’t be negative, not in a situation where you’re trying to promote productivity.
As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been Walter Ray Allen Jr. As a young boy, everyone called me Ray. That was always just my name, Ray. Every year, on the first day of school, we had to sit alphabetically and I was always the first one at the first desk. For the first four days of every school year, from kindergarten till my senior year in high school, I was called Walter because that’s the name the teachers had. And that’s when everyone would tease me.
People are going to call me what they want to call me. It’s human nature. When you look at someone, you call them what you think they look like. If you tell me your name is Jim, and you look like a Jim, I’m gonna call you Jim. In sports, guys end up with nicknames. When you’re playing basketball and you’re running up and down the floor, you don’t have time to say a person’s whole name, so you say whatever bit of their name you can get out. It’s just easier, especially when you’re open and you need a split-second pass. It’s the quickest thing you can get out of your mouth. The shorter the better. After awhile, that’s your name.
There’s a professional bowler named Walter Ray. My parents liked to bowl, but I wasn’t named after him. It’s just a coincidence. He’s on the PBA tour now. I always see his name. I guess he’s a pretty good bowler.
My dad was a welder in the Air Force. They would give him airplane parts and he’d weld them together. Later, he ran the shop, so most of the time he didn’t actually do much welding. He never went to war or anything.
My whole life growing up, we lived on a military base. We moved around a lot, which is pretty natural when you’re a military kid. We were in most places for about three years, then we’d have orders to go to another place. I was born in California, then we moved to Germany, then to Oklahoma, then to England, back to California and then to South Carolina. It’s funny how things in the military can affect where you live. I had these two girlfriends who were living at Allen Air Force Base in the Philippines. They had to pack one suitcase each and move real quickly because a volcano erupted and covered up the whole place.
Once you get to high school age, you want to stay in one place long enough to create a consistency. I was very fortunate to be able to stay in South Carolina throughout my whole high school career. But when I moved there from California, it was tough because the school system was so slow. I had to sit back and wait for about three months to let them catch up. The scary thing was, I knew that when they finally got to where I was, I would get caught up in their slow teaching style, which would make it harder for me to excel academically.
There were so many things I didn’t like about school in South Carolina. In history class, the only subject was South Carolina. I didn’t want to learn about South Carolina history, I wanted to know about the history of the country and the world as a whole. But all they taught was about the state of South Carolina – and I didn’t think that was right. I thought it was very conceited of the school system.
I can’t say we were rich, but I can’t say that we were poor. We always knew that we had food and that we had what was essential for us to live. There were five of us kids, so a lot of things were passed down. At Christmas, I didn’t always get the best presents. But I didn’t complain. I understood that we had bills to pay, so I was the one who always said, ‘I don’t need anything. Don’t buy me anything.’
I didn’t always have the best clothes as a kid. My legs were pretty sizable, so my pants were always short and tight. Same with my shirts – I could never find a shirt that fit me because I was real gangly. Now when I buy clothes, I buy them extra long. I like my clothes to fit nice and snug and be the perfect size but – lengthwise, armwise – my suit always has to come down past my wrists, so I know it’s there. That’s just from growing up as a child and never having clothes that fit me correctly.
I was a communications major in college. I like to talk and I thought maybe I’d go into broadcasting one day. I thought, even if I didn’t make it in the NBA, I could have a strong career in broadcasting. Today, there are a lot of guys who can’t talk who have a career in broadcasting.
I never really thought about basketball in terms of a career. Growing up in the military, I had all kinds of options to play whatever sport I wanted. I played everything – baseball, basketball, football, soccer. Living overseas, I played their sports, too – cricket, lawn bowling, darts.
I was a good football player, a good soccer player and baseball player too. But it was different when I was on the basketball floor. When I walked out onto the court, I was the one guy everyone feared – and that made me feel like somebody. And I knew that was what I wanted.
I learned a lot growing up in different parts of this country, our country. I experienced a bit of everything the United States has to offer and there are lots of places I would not want to live based on the advancement of the culture.
I’ve had a chance to see where the standard of living is high, where kids are productive and the teachers are good. My daughter, Tierra, spends time with me here in the summer and attends the University School camp. I read a lot about which areas are top in education, and University School is probably one of the top five schools in the country – and it’s right down the street from my house. That’s good to know.
These are things I think about, things that will factor into where I decide to live when I retire. Most players want to buy a home where they went to college or where they grew up, but I don’t really have a place where I grew up because I grew up in a lot of different places. I was fortunate to get a taste of it all from being in the military.
Once you get to know the people in a community, it’s easier to live there. You don’t feel so isolated from everyone around you. Once you get a familiarity with your surroundings, you feel part of it. You have all your points – where you eat breakfast, where you eat lunch, where you get your car washed – all those things that build your comfort level. Whether you’re in a big city or a small town, that’s what everybody wants.
All people want to know is where the nice restaurants are, where the malls are, where the movie theaters are. Once you have those bases covered, life is simple – it’s a cakewalk. You don’t have anything to complain about or worry about.
I think people listen to me because I’m always in the newspaper and on TV. If I feel a certain way about something, I’ll say it. This is supposed to be a democratic country, so if we see something we don’t like, we’re supposed to voice our opinion. Hopefully, that’s the way to get some things changed.
Last year, people were getting killed on I-43 because there wasn’t any median. That was in my county, Ozaukee County, right at my exit between Port Washington and Mequon Road. I drive that stretch every day. So I called in, I told them who I was and that I was concerned that people were dying. If you know that a barrier could keep one more person from dying, why not build it? It seems like such a simple solution. And they did it – they put up railroad stakes with ties connecting them. I hope that I was able to help get that done.
Fame is a burden. People sit back and put undo pressures on you. Like when they tried to make Tiger Woods boycott The Masters. For what? It’s not his fight to stand up for women’s rights just because he’s the number-one golfer in the world.
We love Tiger Woods because he shows passion when he’s playing golf. You pay to watch a person excel at their passion. You see the passion someone has for what they do – whether he’s a writer or an actor or an athlete – and that’s what makes you pay for your involvement.
That’s what pays us in society – that’s what people pay us for – because they enjoy seeing our passion for what we do.
Image is what the media gives you. It’s not who you really are. People today worry about all these celebrities and athletes, but I don’t particularly buy into that. I didn’t have role models that were famous when I was growing up.
Image is how people want to view us. When you’re a professional athlete, people think you take your job home, but you don’t. If I were a comedian, people would want me to be funny all the time. But I might not want to be funny in private – I may just want to relax. When I stop at a store, I’m Ray Allen and people want to know about all the great things I do and what I have and the cars I drive. It never changes. You’re always who they think you are. But you can’t worry about what people think. You have to live your life for you and do what makes you happy.
Some guys won’t drive a certain kind of car because they’re worried that someone might think bad of them. If you’ve afforded yourself a successful lifestyle and there’s something you want to buy, I say buy it. If you have a girlfriend and you want to kiss her in public, do it. You can’t worry that somebody’s watching or that somebody might take a picture. You grow up dreaming about all the things you can do with your life – you can’t let people make you a victim of your own success.
When people see how much money other people make, they’re always ready to spend it for them. I think it’s unfair when they say that black people – like Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey – should put their money together and buy a sports team. What if they don’t like sports? Why would they buy a team? You can’t just take a person’s money and tell them what they should do with it.
I’m asked to do things all the time and there are lots of things I say no to. You only have to do what you want to do. I have places where I choose to donate my time and my money – and it’s nobody’s business but my own. If a guy goes to Children’s Hospital and he smiles on the news with a kid who has cancer, half the time I question whether he’s doing it to make the kid happy or because he had an appearance scheduled that day and that’s what it had to be.
If I go to Children’s Hospital, I do it from the heart and I don’t need a TV camera to show that I went there. It’s about doing it to help the kids, not to help your own image. If it’s charitable, the charity knows. The kids who get your money know. Even if it’s not money, if it’s only time, the kids appreciate you spending time with them. And that’s why you do it, so whoever gets your money or your time can be affected and have a better life. It’s not about the camera on you at the hospital so people can see it on TV and say, ‘Oh look, isn’t he great. He’s at the hospital with the kids.’
When I go to a hospital, I want it to be real. I want those kids to know that I have sincere, honest feelings toward them getting better. That’s what I want to give them. That’s why I go. A lot of kids don’t get better and I want them to at least get a chance to live out some of their dreams and fantasies before they die.
You think about death. It’s scary. On this side of the world, we don’t know where we’ll end up when we die. But we do know that we’ll all be taken from this life. It’s nothing to play with.
We walk around each day and we think about where we have to be and what we have to do. The importance of life is so altered in our minds because we expect to be in certain places and do certain things. We never take the nature of life seriously. We never think about how easily it can be taken away.
I lost a good friend a few years ago when Bobby Phills [of the Charlotte Hornets] died. It was tough. He was…me. He was 6-foot-6, very muscular, built like a robot. He seemed invincible, but he wasn’t to death. He was playing around with cars and it took his life. Bobby was 30; I’m 27. When he was 27, he only had three more years to live and he didn’t know it. How would he have lived his life if he had known that he only had three years left to live? I bet it would have been a lot different.
I lift weights and push my threshold of pain. When I have a cold or pain in my body, I don’t let it bother me. But death – death can come to me just as easily as anyone else. I’m not Superman. I can jump and shoot the basketball, but no one is immortal. Everyone who walks this earth, their time is coming. Nobody really wants to know when – you just want to live life and all of a sudden it happens. You close your eyes and you’re done.
I don’t want my legacy to be: I didn’t win a championship. When I was at UConn, we won a lot of games, but we never won the big one. Someday, I want to be able to say that when I played, I did some great things, had some great relationships – and won it all.
I really don’t like to think, in my mind: What’s next? I hate to put that cloud over myself. But I do.
Photographed by Kevin J. Miyazaki.