Kevin Garnett made it okay for Celtics fans to forgive Ray Allen: 6 takeaways from his jersey retirement

"Once he accepted me, then the people accepted me. That was the sense."

Kevin Garnett Ray Allen
Former Boston Celtics players Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hug Kevin Garnett during his number retirement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

On a night that was almost entirely about him, Kevin Garnett used the opportunity to squash his longstanding feud with Ray Allen.

The beef — which began roughly when Garnett refused to shake Allen’s hand after Allen signed with the rival Heat — seemed to thaw at the All-Star break when a viral photo emerged of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce sharing a moment.

Then word trickled out that Allen would attend Garnett’s jersey retirement at TD Garden on Sunday after the Celtics took on the Mavericks. Sure enough, Allen was in the building, and Celtics fans gave him a warm reception.


Garnett, however, saved the warmest reception for Allen until after the game. Completely unprompted, in the middle of a different answer, Garnett pointed to Allen.

“It’s good to see Ray Allen here,” he said. “Real s—.”

The crowd erupted, and Allen walked over to give Garnett a hug. The two were joined by Paul Pierce, who embraced them both. On an evening the Celtics’ operations team expertly planned and produced down to the minute, the best moment was raw and pretty clearly unscripted.

“Ray’s next, dammit,” Garnett roared into the microphone.

To be clear, Allen probably isn’t next. As influential as Garnett might be with the franchise, Allen did leave early, he did join a rival team, and the Celtics did farm out the No. 20 in the interim to Gordon Hayward.

Still, the embrace felt like an enormous moment that the Big Three shared with every Celtics fan watching.

Reporters cornered Allen after the ceremony.

“I was hesitant [to come], not because I didn’t want to be here, but because I wasn’t sure if Kevin wanted me here,” Allen said.

Allen added that he was never sure Garnett wanted him to come, but he was excited to return to TD Garden where the Big Three shared so many enormous, formative moments in building their respective legacies. The thawing over All-Star weekend helped too.


“Words didn’t have to be exchanged,” Allen said. “Just kind of being around each other and talking a little bit, like ‘We’re old men now, and we have nothing to sit back and be angry about because we did some special things together and we have to continue to celebrate that moving forward.'”

“I don’t like being on the outside,” he added.

For years, Garnett set the culture in Boston. His intensity couldn’t be matched, but he expected teammates to approach the game with ferocity and competitiveness like he did.

Garnett also helped set the culture for Celtics fans. Grit and loyalty were praiseworthy. Disloyalty was the ultimate sin (just ask Kyrie Irving). By forgiving Allen, Garnett did more than just squash a beef with an old teammate — he gave a city permission to forgive a player with a complicated history.

Like Allen said: The Big Three are old(er) men now, and they accomplished some special things together.

“I did get the sense that people here felt how Kevin felt,” Allen said. “Once he accepted me, then the people accepted me. That was the sense.

“I was glad we could do that and people could see and we could say ‘We won with this guy in 2008, and that’s what matters most.'”

More takeaways

2. It was clear the crowd was in for a ride when Garnett opened his comments in an interview with Brian Scalabrine by saying “I knew y’all f— with me, but I didn’t know y’all f— with me like this.”


Garnett was perfectly himself throughout the evening. He wandered through the Celtics’ locker room before the game like he was searching for some of the old fire to pump back into his veins. He glared and barked at Jaylen Brown, reaching out for a high five after Brown obliterated Maxi Kleiber with a poster dunk. He muttered to himself as he soaked in the adulation from the TD Garden crowd.

Even when the work is finished, Garnett can’t turn down the intensity.

That was a problem for Garnett throughout his career. During his interview with Scalabrine, Garnett said he used to lose sleep over games, watching film and breaking down matchups. His mentality won a lot of games and a championship, but it wasn’t always healthy.

“No one tells you how to use your superpower,” Garnett quipped at one point.

And yes, profanity was a part of Kevin Garnett that came through clearly on Sunday — so much so that the NBC Sports Boston broadcast seemed to decide that unfiltered Garnett was worthwhile. The Celtics did the same as they filmed his pilgrimage through the locker room.

As Garnett walked onto the floor for his ceremony with his daughters, he clearly mouthed “Goddamn.”

For everyone involved, Sunday was an impactful moment.

3. Garnett is also funny, for the record.

The Celtics put a quote from Garnett above their locker room on Sunday: “I want to be known as the best teammate ever.”

“It’s the selfless unselfishness we’re talking about,” Ime Udoka said. “And you can see it on display tonight. Both teams were really blitzing their main guys, and as I’ve said all year, Jayson is just as happy to see our guys feed off of him, and he makes the right play, makes the right pass. …


“I think we’ve seen that with our play offensively and defensively this year, the way we’ve grown as a team kind of embodies that quote.”

4. The Celtics also played a basketball game on Sunday — they came up short against the Mavericks, who clamped up Jayson Tatum down the stretch. Where other teams have struggled to double-team him and take the ball out of his hands, the Mavericks succeeded due in part to cold shooting (9-for-37 from 3) and in part to impressive defensive rotations and schemes.

At one point late in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks threw the Celtics for a loop by simply refusing to let Tatum or Rob Williams score. When Tatum passed out of the double team to a driving Smart, the Mavericks sat back in the paint to make the lob harder for Williams. Rattled by the extra space in front of him, Smart opted to pass when he should have shot.

The ball worked its way back around to Smart, and he ended up missing a mid-range jumper anyway (with less space this time).

Smart and his teammates are too talented for that scheme to work often, and the Celtics have adjusted nicely to new looks throughout the season. Still, the Mavericks deserve credit for an impressive defensive game plan.

5. Kevin Garnett seems to have gotten introspective about how he reached this point in his years since he left the league. Scalabrine asked him if he ever envisioned a moment like this.


“Antoine Walker, before I came here, he pulled me to the side and he just gave me some great words of wisdom and I took that into my [introductory] press conference,” Garnett said. “The first thing I did after the press conference was come in here and look up at the rafters.

“I just manifested not only a championship, but being immortal in the ceiling, you know what I’m saying? Safe to say I manifested this.”

6. The Celtics ended the evening in the only way appropriate for Garnett: By playing Gino Time, the team’s anthem for blowouts that Garnett always seemed to endlessly appreciate.

We will do the same here. From Game 6 of the 2008 Finals:


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