BOSTON — Walking into TD Garden on Wednesday was an almost literal walk down memory lane for Ray Allen.
Emblazoned on the walls of the hallway leading to the locker rooms are great moments from the Boston Celtics’ storied past, from Chuck Connors to Dave Cowens and beyond. Tom Heinsohn’s youthful face smiles out at visitors, beside Sam Jones preparing to release one of his signature jump shots.
Allen, who helped bring a 17th NBA championship banner to Boston, was unsure if he made the mural. As a member of the Miami Heat, he knows he’s not as beloved as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Doc Rivers, whom he helped capture the title in 2008. That’s OK with Allen, though. The happy memories drown out the boos.
“This building is great,” Allen said. “I love what they did with the wall. I didn’t see if I made it, but I always said, you have so much great history and tradition here, that it’s great to tell it when people come in the building.”
Allen indeed was booed Wednesday, as he has been every time he’s returned since signing a two-year deal with the rival Heat in 2012. His No. 20 jersey is a lot less common around the Garden this season than Pierce’s No. 34 or Garnett’s No. 5. Some particularly unhinged fans spew hateful things from the upper deck.
But the disintegration of Allen’s relationship with Boston fans — not to mention with Pierce and Garnett, with whom he said he no longer communicates — doesn’t change how he views the city or the organization, he said.
“It didn’t change my feelings, because I spent five years here, and what I focused on is every great thing that has happened for me here in this city,” Allen said. “I love this city, and my family loves it. It still remains my home. We live only an hour from here. So it didn’t change anything. I know people who really understood me and the situation I was in, that was all I cared about.”
Someday, almost assuredly, Pierce and Garnett’s jersey numbers will join the 20 Celtics numbers already retired, including 18, which is retired twice. If the Celtics want to retire the number of Danny Ainge, the architect of a championship squad and two NBA Finals teams, then they have little choice but to retire the numbers of the two principle players on those teams.
Allen’s situation is a bit touchier. Unlike Pierce and Garnett, Allen left of his own volition. Strangely, so did Rivers, technically, but no one ever said fan sentiment had to be logical.
Having his number retired by the Celtics would be “one of the single greatest honors of my career,” Allen admitted, but if not, he understands. He knows things are different, which is why he was so surprised when a reporter told him that his likeness had, indeed, made it onto the hallway wall.
“Interestingly enough, I have not had my jersey retired anywhere that I’ve ever played, so it’s not something that I worry about,” Allen said. “But, you know, I just signed a picture from (Bryan) Doo, the (Celtics’) strength coach, and it was a picture of me taking a shot against the Lakers. It was just this random shot, but when I see it, I think about all the big games we played in this building — non-playoff games, playoff games. Those are the things that will always stick out in your mind, and people will always remember that.
“Regardless of what happens in the rafters, when I look up there, there’s a banner. That’s what’s special.”