Ray Allen on hoops and life: 3 takeaways from “NBA Fest” in Japan

As the halftime buzzer signaled a brief pause in action between the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics amid Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals, the energy in a packed Shibuya Stream Hall hit a fever pitch. Nearly 300 fans were on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the arrival of two-time NBA champion Ray Allen. Hoops fans had gathered for an unforgettable day featuring one of the greatest three-point shooters in NBA history, and a host of exciting activities.

NBA Fest 2024: NBA Finals viewing party

The event, NBA Fest in Japan 2024, was the latest in a series of initiatives hosted by Rakuten to promote the sport of basketball in Japan, from court makeovers with the Golden State Warriors to international university basketball tournaments.

Nearly 300 fans joined Ray Allen at Shibuya Stream Hall for the NBA viewing party.

Held in the heart of Tokyo, the festival brought together basketball enthusiasts from all over Japan to celebrate the sport they love. Kicking off the day was a live screening of Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Finals featuring a guest appearance by the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Allen. During halftime, the Shibuya viewing party connected live with viewing parties in the Philippines and Indonesia, allowing fans from across Asia to enjoy Allen’s analysis of the game.

After the buzzer sounded on the Mavericks’ victory — the team’s lone triumph in an otherwise dominant series by the Celtics that saw the team take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in five games — the former Boston Celtic headed outside to join a basketball clinic for local kids looking to hone their skills. The clinic provided aspiring players with the opportunity to learn shooting tips from Allen himself and gain valuable insights from one of the game’s greats.

Young athletes practicing their ball-handling skills at the NBA basketball clinic in Tokyo.

1. The final stretch: Distractions lose games

Throughout the day, Allen shared wisdom on what it takes to reach the top in the NBA and the challenges that would-be champions face.

Reflecting on the Celtics’ missed opportunity to win the finals 4-0, the former NBA great pointed to the added distractions that the visiting team faced. “In a closeout game, just imagine this. Game four, all these people in Boston think that they’re going to win the championship tonight,” Allen told the crowd. “I’m sure the whole staff from Boston flew to Dallas and every player’s team, from all over the country, flew to Dallas. So, you had to get more hotel rooms, you had to get a bus, and you had to make all these accommodations because everybody wanted to be there to see them win the championship. So now what did that do to the players? Distractions.”

2. Mind over matter

Allen, who famously made a critical clutch three-pointer for the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals – considered by many to be one of the greatest shots in Finals history – is certainly someone who knows how to navigate distractions.

Allen was joined by Yuki Kawamura of the Yokohama B-Corsairs. ©︎NBA
Allen was joined by Yuki Kawamura of the Yokohama B-Corsairs.

To keep focused when it comes to the finals, he emphasized the crucial role of both physical training and mentality. “In the finals, you have to get used to not feeling great,” he noted. “You play a lot of basketball and your body’s broken down, which is why it’s important at the beginning of the season to really get in great shape so your body’s able to withstand 82 games and then two months of playoffs. At this time of year, it’s no longer about your basketball skills. It’s more about your mentality. And the guys that are mentally stronger are the ones that can play better and carry their team.”

3. Slam dunk teamwork

Aside from personal conditioning, Allen explained that willingness to sacrifice for the greater benefit of the team is the other key factor in determining success. “Basketball is a team game,” he said. “It’s about relying on each other. There are times when you have to hit the game-winning shot, and there are times when you’ve got to pass it. There are times when you’ve got to be a great defender. As intelligent basketball players, you age, you become more efficient and you learn. If you want to win, you have to do the small things to help the team win.”

Ray Allen at NBA Fest in Japan 2024. ©︎NBA
Ray Allen at NBA Fest in Japan 2024.
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