As someone who loves nothing more than a good storyline to drive media coverage and television ratings, National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern had to have been happy to see Ray Allen jump from the Boston Celtics to the Miami Heat.
Celtics fans, of course, feel a little differently, which will only fuel the fires of one of the league’s budding rivalries.
Allen signed a one-year deal with the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, July 11, a mere 32 days after the Heat knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs by winning Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat’s comeback from a three games to two deficit ended a brilliant five-year run in Boston for Allen and the Heat’s subsequent rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals signified a changing of the guard in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics won the NBA Finals in 2008, lost the Finals in 2010, and previously fell to the Eastern Conference champion in the playoffs in 2009 and 2011, but the Heat this year became the first team to win consecutive Eastern Conference titles since the Detroit Pistons in 2004-05. And with the big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all 30 years old or younger — and Allen, the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter, climbing aboard in a supplemental role — the Heat appear well-positioned to dominate the East for years to come.
But the Celtics, who re-signed all of their other key veteran free agents — including star center Kevin Garnett — aren’t willing to concede to the Heat, which should make the four games the teams play against each other next season juicy affairs both on the court and in the stands.
Allen took out a full-page ad in The Boston Globe thanking Celtics fans for their support, but not everyone in Boston is willing to return the niceties: A Boston website has produced “Judas Shuttleworth” T-shirts (Allen played Jesus Shuttleworth in the movie “He Got Game”).
Allen is far from the first Boston sports icon to get the cold shoulder after joining a bitter rival. Johnny Damon received the Judas T-shirt treatment (except his read “Looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary”) when he left he the Boston Red Sox for their bitter rival, the New York Yankees, as a free agent following the 2005 season. Roger Clemens, who won a team-record 192 games for the Red Sox from 1984 through 1996, was serenaded with derisive chants at Fenway Park after he forced a trade to the Yankees from the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 1999 season.
Of course, given their recent success, the Heat and Celtics didn’t need a star player to switch sides in order to draw capacity crowds to home games at AmericanAirlines Center and TD Garden. The Heat and Celtics finished third and fourth, respectively, in the NBA in attendance this season. The Heat averaged 22,920 fans at 19,600-seat capacity AmericanAirlines Center while the Celtics have welcomed 253 straight sellout crowds, counting the postseason.