Beirut, Lebanon — Celtic Nation Blogger Ahmad Sankari gives us his take on loyalty and the Ray Allen-to-Miami shocker. Sankari also gives Celtic Nation an international perspective of the Boston Celtics from the Middle East, and we’re thrilled to have him aboard. Below is his first post on Celtic Nation:
My cousin: “So overall, was it a positive or a negative experience for you?”
Me: “So far, definitely a negative one… I feel like I can’t trust anyone anymore…”
OK let me explain what that was all about… Last October, almost 2 or 3 months before I was supposed to get engaged, I got a message from my ex saying: “I am really sorry, I don’t think it’s gonna work out… I hope this decision turns out to be the best for both of us…” Although I was fueled with emotions and rage at that time, my reply was: “Really? Via a message and not face-to-face? Thanks…”
Without question, the end of the dream was devastating, but what was really hurtful is the way it went down! I thought that it was really disrespectful for me, the time we spent together, and for the memories we shared to end this way… By a text message!
Ok, now jump 9 months ahead…
While I was checking Twitter, waiting impatiently for the good news to finally come about Ray Allen, the thoughts of how my engagement ended all came flooding back. I suddenly understaood that, in the ugliest way possible, Ray wasn’t coming back. In my heart I just knew it was the end of the era. That it was the end of the Big Three…
If everyone is honest, there wasn’t a single fan in Boston that was completely confident Ray was coming back. For all the people closely following what happened last season, they knew that one way or another, with all of the drama regarding Ainge and Rondo, that Ray was going to depart. But the most painful part wasn’t that Ray left, but how he left. Most fan reactions were like mine - not that way! Not to them!! You must be kidding me!!!
Wasn’t there a better way for Celtics fans to learn about it? Wasn’t there a better way for Ray to break it to us, other than us reading the stupid tweets of the Heat owner welcoming our very own Ray to their “nation”? Of course there was!
I met Ray couple of days before Game 3 vs Atlanta in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. It was a dream come true.. I approached him with a big smile and said: “Hey Ray! Can I have a minute?” He looked at me with the meanest look you could possibly imagine before responding: “No, of course you can’t.”
To be fair, Ray didn’t know who I was. He didn’t know that I live in Lebanon, which is 8,000 miles (and a +7 hour time difference) away from the Garden. He didn’t know I wake up 2AM to watch him nailing 3 pointers, and that I did this all season long. He didn’t know that I just arrived from a 20-hour flight to be in Boston to watch his return after missing almost 20 games due to those painful bone spurs. How the hell would he know? He never will, because he didn’t give me that minute to tell him that…
The next day, I met Sherrod Blakely (one of my favorite Celtics reporters,) and when I told him about the incident, his reply was: “Don’t take it personally. Ray is one of the nicest guys in our league, but he is going through a very hard time now. This has been probably the toughest season of his career, so don’t take it personally.” And I didn’t. In fact, I immediately blocked the whole incident from my mind, and the very next day in the Garden I was the loudest among 18,624 fans giving Ray a standing ovation for his return. It was a thrill that I’ll never forget. I received a message from my cousin who was watching the game live on national TV, saying that she saw me jumping excitedly like a 3-year old when Ray scored his first bucket! All was forgotten about that run-in with Ray Allen, and all was forgiven.
So just when I thought that I would never experience the pain of my first-and-only encounter with Ray again, I was proved wrong. He had joined the enemy! He had joined the man he tried to knock out of the playoffs in 4 out of the previous 5 seasons. Only this time he wasn’t just giving me the look; he was standing next to their Big 3, with Pat Riley’s devil face in the background, giving us all the look, tormenting his Celtics family.
I’ve read many articles and tweets defending Ray’s point of view and his loyalty to Boston. The overall theme was that this simply wasn’t his fault. That Ray wasn’t acting so much as reacting – that he was reacting to how the Boston Celtics had wronged him. That he was reacting to all of the sleepless nights that the Celtics caused him around the trade deadline. That he was reacting to the most awkward and unwanted situation the Celtics put him through when told he was traded to Memphis last season, only to go back and tell him that the deal had fallen apart. And in a lot of ways, all of these arguments made sense to me. But the part that bothered me most was the WE factor – that somehow it went beyond management and extended to you and I.
Why were the fans suddenly being held responsible? I certainly didn’t want to trade Ray Allen, and 99.9 % of true Boston fans didn’t, either! Danny did. And as much as I hated the idea of losing Ray, I realized that Danny was simply doing his job – a job, quite frankly, that he excels in. No one knows what’s going in Danny’s head except for Danny! And whether I like it or not, I have to accept the idea that he is doing his job. He has the right – and obligation – to listen to phone calls, to field offers, to do whatever it takes to make the team better. Let’s face it: Danny would trade his own mother if he thought it would increase the team’s chances to raise another banner. So, is he the guy that players should be loyal to? Of course not.
But it’s my belief that a player should be loyal to the organization as a whole – the coaches, the medical staff, the trainers…and especially his TEAMMATES, and FANS! To take it a step further, a Celtic player should be loyal to the idea of what it means to be a Boston Celtic. To the bond of togetherness created by UBUNTU. To the 17 championship banners. To the Garden. To the 18,624 in attendance. To Red. To Causeway Street. To the retired numbers hanging from the rafters. And in Ray Allen’s case, a member of the Big 3 should be loyal to the other 2 members! They started this trip together 5 years ago, and they should have ended it together if at all possible – and if not, certainly not by one of them joining the enemy forces!
The painful part here is that the wound is not going to heal anytime soon. It will hurt like hell every time Ray hits a 3 pointer. I will still be amazed when Ray drains another 3-pointer, stacking more on top of the 2,700 other 3′s he’s nailed in his Hall of Fame career. Yet, with each one he hits from now and on, it will hurt knowing that he’s making those threes for our bitter rivals, the Miami Heat.
Just as I never allowed anyone to bad mouth my ex because of all the memories I shared with her, I will not accept the idea of any fake fans bad-mouthing Jesus Shuttlesworth. The memories he gave us the last 5 years were more than amazing. He was a big part of KG becoming a Celtic, of raising the 17th banner, of the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. Some many memories. He drained the most 3 pointers in an NBA Final game as a Celtic. He passed Reggie Miller as the all-time leader in 3-pointers as a Celtic. There were the thrilling, buzzer beaters and game winners, and the hundreds of cold blooded “nothing but net” shots…
So he will always have a place in my heart. But in the end, Ray is not a Celtic anymore. I really wish him the best of luck only on an individual basis – but 10 years later, when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame, I would really love to listen to him being introduced as the only NBA player ever with 3000+ 3 pointers and 1 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP.
Goodbye Ray, and good luck.
You will be missed.
Ahmad Sankari is a lifelong Celtics fan who lives in Beirut, Lebanon, and a new blogger at Celtic Nation. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @Siga_5
Boston, and all points beyond