I've always appreciated writer Sherman Alexie's lament about the departure of Ray Allen and ultimately the Seattle Sonics in SonicsGate that in this city lived a human being who was better at their thing than any human who ever lived. He lived here, he played here.
That "thing" of course was his jumpshot, arguably the most beautiful the world has seen. The consistency and fluidity of his form makes Allen among the most fascinating basketball players to watch in the nation.
Yesterday on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Allen discussed the mentality behind perfecting that jumpshot and while some might consider it frightening, it starts to become clear that what separates Allen from the rest of us is more than simply fortuitous physical gifts.
"It's something about the game itself that eats away at me," said Allen. "I can be watching TV and I see somebody miss a free throw and I'm like, 'Aw man, I need to go in the gym and shoot some free throws' because then you start worrying about missing free throws and you worry about not making the shot."
"Like I have anxiety on a daily basis, thinking sometimes what if I don't make another three pointer? And so, when I get in the gym the first thing I do is just go and start shooting shots and getting those threes up. Because it just messes with you and for me it just forces me to want to just continually figure out a way to make it happen because if you don't get in the gym and do get in the gym and do it then it will never happen. So I guess it's my demons trying to make sure that I will always continue to work on my game and stay humble. I guess it's gotten me to this point so I'll keep doing it."
First, I'm glad he made sure to clarify that watching missed free throws on television doesn't mess with all of us - those are almost certainly uniquely personal demons. He's also correct that I did worry about missing shots during my non-descript high school basketball career and I count that among the many reasons that I'm not in the NBA.
But second, I've talked with friends who spend more time around the game than average about just how little people understand about what goes into the daily preparation of a professional athlete to perform - it's not what we imagine from high school practices when you run drills for a few hours after school and go home. And for the great ones, it's not even just about a disciplined pursuit of perfection in workouts. Being Ray Allen-good is a 24/7 obsession that transforms even witnessing a missed free throw into a painful reminder of how far from perfect you are.
Although that's a level of intensity that most people would rather avoid, it's why Allen can legitimately claim such high praise from Alexie.
For the full interview, visit SportsRadioInterviews.com.