The Best of a Bad Situation: Ray Allen Continued

(We’re not quite done with Ray Allen just yet. We announced him as our top Milwaukee Bucks player of the past 20 years on Tuesday. Today, Josh Hilgendorf has his own take on Ray Allen. And we have more Ray Allen lined up for later this week. – JS)

Choosing the top 20 Bucks’ players of the past 20 years was a pretty tough task. Choosing the best? Not so much. Ray Allen was the clear choice and nobody else was even close. It was his addition that turned things around for Milwaukee. Allen came to town and all of a sudden the Bucks started winning. The team went from a .305 winning percentage the year before his arrival to a .634 winning percentage in only his fifth season.

Of course, Allen was about more than just wins and losses. He had that picture perfect jump shot. He unleashed his fair share of fierce dunks. Above all, Allen gave the Bucks a player to counter the superstars of the NBA. No game exemplified this better than Ray’s epic duel with Allen Iverson in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Although Iverson outscored Allen 46-41, Milwaukee came out on top in that game.

The media attention, however brief and small it was, Allen brought to the Bucks should also not be discounted. In addition to what he did on the court, he also co-starred in the ridiculously awesome He Got Game alongside Denzel Washington. Outside of Shaq and MJ, how many NBA players can you say played a major role in a widely released movie?

Along with all of the good, Allen is also connected to one of my lowest points as a Bucks fan.

I was watching ESPN News when they reported he had been traded to Seattle for Gary Payton. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a mistake. Then I just got really sad. I remember calling my two friends who were also fans of the team and just venting. We were 15 years old at the time so our conversation assuredly featured a lot of “worst trade ever” type talk. I moped around for what today seemed like weeks, but was actually probably only a couple days. “How could the Bucks do this to me?” my teenage mind wondered.

Then a funny thing happened. Payton and Desmond Mason suited up for their first game as a Buck on Feb. 22. And what do you know? They won. Payton had 22 points and nine assists. Mason showed the athleticism that made him such an exciting player in Seattle. No matter how much I loved Allen, I realized I was a Bucks fan first. No matter who they throw out on the court or how many times they trade my favorite player, my loyalty will remain. I also realized just because Allen was miles away in Washington, it would be pretty easy to follow him via the Internet. Although I couldn’t watch him every game, I didn’t completely lose the player I had enjoyed watching.

Looking back on the trade now, I still don’t like it from a Bucks perspective, but it is far from the “worst trade ever” that my young self once proclaimed. Things clearly weren’t working with Allen and George Karl. Some sort of shake up was necessary. Did that mean Milwaukee had to trade away its best player? No, absolutely not, but it makes it a little easier to see why the trade was made. In addition, the trade ushered in the Michael Redd era. With Allen gone, Redd was able to step into the starting shooting guard role and brought us a few years of excellent production. There is a good chance Redd would have been relegated to a sixth man role for his formidable years if Allen was never moved. Or maybe Redd would have been the one traded. Either way, we would not have had the experience we did with Redd if Allen remained on the Bucks.

Allen will forever hold a special place for me. He was the guy who was the best player when I really started to love the Bucks. For most former Milwaukee players, my interest for them fades when they leave the team. Allen was an exception. As soon as I could find one, I purchased a poster of Allen as a Sonic. It still hangs on my bedroom wall in my parent’s house…right next to my poster of Ray as a Buck.

How did you feel about the Ray trade at the time? How do you feel about it now?

Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Categories: 20 Bucks for 20 Years

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  1. The Ray Allen trade upset me then and it upsets me now. How could Ernie Grunfeld (worst GM ever?) trade the best player to put on a Bucks uniform since Sidney Moncrief for a guy, Gary Payton, who was not shy about making it clear from the moment he was traded that he considered my hometown barely one step above purgatory and there was no way, NO WAY, that he would ever even consider re-signing with the Bucks after he led them to a disappointing, but all too predictable (based on his comments and his effort as a player down the stretch, seriously, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player let his feelings for his surroundings dictate his effort like Payton), first round playoff defeat. I know it ain’t Oakland, Gary (sarcasm), but Milwaukee is a pretty great place in its own right, and I know first hand that many players who were not from Milwaukee and did not enjoy the cold weather to say the least enjoyed their time in Milwaukee and playing for the Bucks fans anyways. He would have been better served keeping his feelings to himself and putting his head down and working hard for the team, but he didn’t, he phoned it in from the second he got to Milwaukee, in my opinion. Didn’t we also give Seattle a 1st round pick, Flip Murray, AND Kevin Ollie, too? So it turned out to be Ray Allen, Flip Murray, Kevin Ollie and a 1st round pick for an athletic swing man and two months of someone else’s problem, a declining and sulking Gary Payton. Worst. Trade. Ever.

  2. Great follow up to your first article on Ray Ray! I really appreciate your passion for the Bucks and Ray Allen.

  3. I’ll preface this by saying that I was a big Desmond Mason fan, and of course a big Michael Redd fan when he was healthy. Those two are the silver lining of the trade.

    But this was still a dispicable, terrible, awful trade. We gave up Murray, Ollie AND a first round pick for a declining Payton who was mere months away from free agency and made it known that he wouldn’t stay in Milwaukee. Ray Allen is one of the best, if not THE best 3 point shooter of all time, and for many years was probably the NBA’s best pure shooter. And not only did we trade him, the package we gave up for what was basically Des Mason is downright laughable. How did we get suckered into giving up conditional first rounder in a deal for an increasingly washed up PG who was going to leave anyway? Was there hope he would sign an extension because Karl had a huge thing for him? I have no doubt that had this trade not been made, the Bucks fortunes of the 2000s would be different. Sure we probably wouldn’t have had Ford or Bogut, but also probably not Yi and Joe Alexander. Redd could have been traded for a PG to replace Cassell or a scoring forward to replace Big Dog, and we could have had some lasting success.

    Full disclosure, I was 13 when this trade went down. I loved Allen and I had been a Bucks/NBA fan for a few years, but this trade set back my interest in professional basketball for years to come. Yeah, diss me for being a bad fan. I was 13, I wasn’t yet at the point where I put the team ahead of all else. I felt downright betrayed, and I harbor resentment toward Grunfield and even Karl to this day for the Allen trade. Now I’m a Bucks fan ahead of an Allen fan, but Ray Allen has always been my favorite basketball player and

  4. It’s actually funny – I remember being pumped when the trade went down. Payton and Cassell were my version of Walt Frazier and Earl the Pearl at the time, and I was on a big Walt Frazier kick. I thought Redd was ready to step in and BE Ray Allen and it seemed like Tim Thomas could step into a bigger role with two point guards helping him along.

    I even bought a “Love the Glove” homemade shirt on my way to a playoff game later that season. I’d eventually use that shirt as a rag when something spilled in my garage.


  5. It was and is the worst trade ever. Ray Ray wanted to be here. He was/is a class act, and having to watch him star in other cities for 8 years has been absolutely painful.

    Erie Grunfeld is a complete idiot. He ruined the Bucks and is at it again in Washington. If I ever see him, someone stop me.