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A Brief History of the Big 3–Era Celtics Beef That Just Won’t Die

Ray Allen will enter the Hall of Fame on Friday, but he probably won’t be receiving many well wishes from his teammates on the 2008 Celtics. Here’s a breakdown, in FAQ style, of the discord that looms over Boston’s last NBA championship core.

Ray Allen and the rest of the 2008 Celtics Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Ray Allen will become a member of professional basketball’s most prestigious club this week. After playing 18 NBA seasons in the league and winning two championships, Allen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday along with Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and Grant Hill, among others. Though for a handful of his former teammates, he’s still not worth acknowledging.

At least, that’s what Allen believes. When asked if he’ll be receiving congratulation messages from members of the 2008 championship-winning Celtics, Allen told The Athletic, “No, I don’t expect to.” It’s been six years since the guard left Boston for Miami, but bad blood still remains on the other side. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and even Glen Davis have been vocal in the past about how Allen’s decision to sign with the LeBron James–led Heat, one of the Celtics’ biggest rivals during that period, felt like betrayal. Here’s a FAQ about everything that’s happened since, and why the former Celtics—Rondo especially—should probably have gotten over it by now.

Why did Allen leave Boston in the first place?

In his own words, Allen felt disrespected. “So let me see if I got this straight,” Allen wrote in his 2018 memoir, From the Outside: My Journey Through Life and the Game I Love. “You want to pay me less money. You want to bring me off the bench. You want to continue to run the offense around Rondo. Now tell me again exactly why I would want to sign this contract?”

In the summer of 2012, the Celtics offered a two-year, $12 million deal to Allen, then an unrestricted free agent. He turned it down, instead taking a substantial pay cut—two years and $6.3 million—to join James in South Beach. After five seasons in Boston, during which he helped revive the Celtics franchise and win its first title in two decades, Allen was off to play for the team that has just beat it in seven games to win the East.

How did Rondo, KG, Pierce and the others take it?

“To go with the enemy,” Rondo told The Undefeated in 2017, “that’s unheard-of in sports.” (For reference, this was said after Kevin Durant signed with Golden State, which had just eliminated Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.) Miami was the enemy; the Heat won a second straight title with Allen. The Celtics, meanwhile, would go on to lose in the first round. The following offseason, that Boston core was shipped off to Brooklyn and dissolved into picks. But the beef remains. In 2017, Rondo began organizing a 10-year reunion vacation for the 2008 championship team. He invited everyone, except Allen.

“I asked a couple of the guys,” Rondo said, on whether to include their former teammate. “I got a no, a no head shake.” Pierce claimed that Allen had ghosted him during the entire 2012 free-agency process, and that he thought of it as betrayal: “That’s why the whole thing evolved like it did with us not talking to him.”

Has anyone made up?

Before Pierce’s jersey-retirement ceremony in Boston in February—which was already embroiled in conflict—Allen posted a photo of himself deliciously, shadefully golfing. But two days later, Allen posted on Instagram congratulating Pierce.

What we did in 2008 was special! Not only by Boston standards but by professional sports standards. The truth is, without any one of us on that team we would’ve never been able to do the unthinkable. Going from last place in one year to winning a championship is unfathomable. But, we did it! WE did it- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, Glen Davis, Eddie House, Kendrick Perkins, Scott Pollard, James Posey, Leon Powe, Gabe Pruitt, Brian Scalabrine, Doc, Danny, everyone at the Celtics Organization, our wives, children, families, the Fans in The City of Boston and yes, me. Over the last few years I have been berated, lambasted and had my name smeared. You may not want to hear this, but I will always be a Celtic. (Fact). I will always cherish the bonds that I shared with all of my teammates and the people in the city of Boston. (Truth). We all gave everything we had. We all won and we all raised the 2008 NBA Championship banner together. (Ubuntu) Paul Pierce is the first guy that welcomed Kevin and me with open arms into his atmosphere from day one and we never looked back. Paul and I have spoken about our time together as teammates- going to battle night after night knowing we could count on one another and we have also talked about my decision to leave during free agency- a choice I made for my family. Despite what you may have heard or read or what is rumored- there is nothing but love. Paul and I are more interested in building bridges than putting up walls. To Paul, number 34, Congratulations on having your number raised up to the rafters. I salute you for your commitment to the city of Boston and to us the 2008 NBA Champions #thetruth

A post shared by Ray Allen (@trayfour) on

“Over the last few years,” Allen wrote, “I have been berated, lambasted and had my name smeared. You may not want to hear this, but I will always be a Celtic. [...] Paul and I have spoken about our time together as teammates- going to battle night after night knowing we could count on one another and we have also talked about my decision to leave during free agency. [...] Paul and I are more interested in building bridges than putting up walls.”

Allen confirmed to The Athletic this week that he and Pierce “patched it out” a year ago. But he’s still had no communication with Garnett, Big Baby, or Rondo. The grudge with Rondo is particularly icy. Multiple members of the 2008 team, including Allen and Rondo themselves, are on record saying that the two didn’t get along even prior to Allen’s signing with the Heat. Rondo stopped passing him the ball altogether the season before he left, and promised to “get [his] ass out of here” that summer, Allen said. Rondo calling Allen the enemy after all this time is also slightly incongruous, considering he signed with the Lakers this summer to play alongside the same guy Allen left Boston to join.

Garnett may be a lost cause; as Allen wrote in his book, “If you’re on his team, he will die for you. If you’re not, he won’t give you the time of day.” But as Rondo, now 32, navigates the latter half of his career, one would hope he’d be inclined to soften his stance. He’s been a journeyman post-Boston—six teams in the past four years—who presumably now understands all the factors that go into a decision to sign somewhere new. If he can get past the animosity toward LeBron, someone he battled against for years, he should be able to get past it with a man he won a championship with.

Bonus question: What would Doc Rivers do if he crossed paths with a genie?

“If I had one wish,” Rivers said Tuesday in Boston, “I wish I could do a better job of getting that group back together.”