Life lessons from Ray Allen

Walter Ray Allen officially announced his retirement from the NBA on Tuesday at the age of 41. The most prolific 3-point shooter in league history is hanging them up.

Even if you're not a basketball fan, you would know who Ray Allen is. You'd know him as Jesus Shuttlesworth from the iconic film, "He Got Game."

I'm fortunate to have gotten to know Allen a bit over the years; I began covering the NBA as a journalist during the 1996-97 season, his rookie year. I was in the arena for the 2007 NBA draft, getting details about the blockbuster trade that sent Allen from Seattle to Boston from agent David Falk, whose client, Jeff Green was in the deal. Some of my best career memories were those many, many trips to Boston to see the Big Three-era Celtics, who beat the Lakers in the Finals in 2008 and lost to them in 2010. 

I've never seen a sports arena so alive as TD Garden was during those epic Finals showdowns with the Lakers ... or the Eastern Conference playoff battles with LeBron James.

I was fortunate enough to be in the building when Allen hit one of the most important and memorable shots in NBA history, his corner 3-pointer against the Spurs in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals when he was with the Heat.

He gave me one of the most thoughtful interviews I've ever done, when I asked him in 2012 if there was anything LeBron could do to surpass Michael Jordan. Here's what he said.

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But nothing I ever wrote about Ray Allen could come close to surpassing this piece that Allen himself penned for The Players' Tribune, titled, "Letter to My Younger Self." It's loaded with insight, inspiration and life lessons -- whether you are as old as Allen and trying to improve your life and health, or whether you're a 13-year-old athlete trying to understand what you need to do in order to reach your full potential, both as an athlete and as a person.

"God will give you a lot of things in life," Allen wrote, "but he's not going to give you a jump shot. Only hard work will do that."

Whether you're looking for inspiration, motivation or just a better understanding of what kind of sacrifice is required to become the best version of yourself, this piece is worth your time. Just read it.  

And if there's a young athlete in your life, share it. As a parent, I know they won't listen to us. But they'll listen to Ray Allen.