NBA Legend Ray Allen Continues Expansion Beyond Basketball with Maserati Partnership

NEW YORK CITY -- Ray Allen was a picture of discipline during his 18 years in the NBA. But even the pristinely focused (and always sharply dressed) Hall of Famer couldn’t entirely contain himself on this particular morning.

No, it wasn’t Christmas Day, though for a car lover like Ray, it must’ve felt like it. Instead, on this spring day in New York City, he was set to attend the New York International Auto Show for his first in-person look at the customized Maserati Levante GTS he had flown to Modena and Turin, Italy, to design—albeit not spoiler-free.

“I was excited all morning because people kept sending me like snippets of the car,” Ray recalled during the unveiling. “I was, like, ‘Just send me the whole car, please!’”

The SUV, which Ray personalized through Maserati’s “ONE OF ONE” program, includes mats inspired by basketball nets and sneaker soles, his signature embroidered on the back of the driver’s headrest and the phrase “Maserati for Ray” engraved on the door sill inserts.

The two-time champion and 10-time All-Star sat down with CloseUp360 to discuss how he got involved with Maserati, what greatness means to him, what he listens to when he drives and more.

(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Ray Allen

Ray Allen came to the New York International Auto Show to see his customized Maserati Levante GTS in person for the first time. (Griffin Harrington)

CloseUp360: Tell me about this journey you took to Italy, and what unfolded there for you.

Ray Allen: Just when this deal came across the table, I was offered to enter into the customization of a Levante Maserati. And they asked me, “Hey, you can get on the phone with a couple of designers and talk about what you love to do. And you can go to Italy, but if you don't have time, you can just do it on the phone.” I said, “No, I'd love to go to Italy.” So it just came together so fast. And so my schedule—bam—was on the table. I was, like, “I'd actually want to stay a little bit longer since I'm going to be over there.” So I created an itinerary.

So after we got there on a Sunday, we met on a Tuesday and just talked about every aspect of the car, and the colors I thought I liked and the directions I want to go in. And then it was, like, we just came out with a whole totally different color, totally different design. And it was like this neat process where when you start really kind of going over it, you come up with something unique, especially with people who've done it before. They've been around the car industry before, you know, they’ve been around luxury cars before. So it was definitely an experience that I would encourage other people to try if they're car people.

CU360: How much did you know about cars going into this process? And how much did you have to learn?

RA: Well, I've been around cars long enough in my career and I've owned many different cars. I think about the cars I've owned and I've given away or I've sold, ones I still have. I kind of understand the different brands, but I'm always fascinated with what comes next. And the interesting thing is, it's a rabbit you're always trying to chase. Because each new year, you just hope that the car you have doesn't change the body style too much, because you get enticed to wanting to jump into the market and buy something new. So there's always something to learn. You can never know enough.

CU360: What's next with this Maserati? What technology or features really stood out to you?

RA: I think with this car, it's an SUV, midsize, but it still drives like a car. When you're in it, there is a power associated with it, but at the same time, it's smooth. It can be both, and that's depending on kind of the mood that you're in.

Ray Allen

Ray flew to Italy to customize his own Maserati SUV. (Griffin Harrington)

CU360: Take me inside your creative vision with this SUV.

RA: Well, color was important. Like, how do you pick a color for Miami? Because as I moved to Miami years ago, you can't wear dark colors. The sun like sits in it. Black, it will just sit there and just make you feel like you're on fire. So you've got to use softer colors, but you don't want to be too extreme where everybody knows, “Hey, that's Ray coming in his yellow car.” So I wanted something that had color and that spoke to Miami. And then I think the best thing was the ocean, what resonated with being on the ocean and being in Miami. So then we picked the blue and the blue was giving off so much. So we decided to go matte, just to kind of keep it with the aggressive look and keep it real subtle.

CU360: You're a big detail-oriented guy, from your shooting routines to your suits. What impressed you with the approach they took in Italy with starting the design you wanted?

RA: Just greatness. Most people think it's the thing done at such a high level. You know, in basketball, you think it's somebody who can do a 360 dunk or somebody does a no-look, behind-the-back pass or just the things that are highlights. But greatness, to me, is the simple stuff that's done over and over again on a consistent basis. Showing up at your job, making the free throw when it counts, being there for your teammates—just being where you're supposed to be at all times. That's what allows you to reach your levels of greatness.

So when you compare that to a car, you see a car that stays in the marketplace, that doesn't compromise who it is, what it looks like. Years down the line, you say, “Wow, this car has always been what I expected it to be.” And performance-wise, it's always right there with the best. And look-wise, It's always stylish.

CU360: You've traveled the world and you've seen so many different cultures, you’ve seen basketball embraced in so many different cultures. How did this experience stand out as far as connecting to the convergence between cars and basketball?

RA: Well, you’re operating at the highest rails. When you're talking about luxury vehicles and you're talking about professional athletes, you do everything extremely fast, but you're in sync because you can think through turmoil or confusion. This car is fast, but it can make decisions as you're moving in a fast pace. They still can be cool under fire or under pressure. So that is, in essence, the mind of an athlete. Like, I'm going to run down this floor and I'm going to move at such a high rate of speed. But I'm also going to crossover and switch hands and get to the basket, and do something to the point where it seems like otherworldly, but it's kind of a run-of-the-mill, par-for-the-course, everyday part of my job. Cars do resemble that of athletes that move at that level.

Ray Allen

When choosing the color for his personalized Maserati, Ray carefully considered the style and intense sunshine of Miami. (Griffin Harrington)

CU360: Since you officially retired in 2016, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame, opened a restaurant, published a book and played in this year’s All-Star Celebrity Game. Now, I can’t remember a pro athlete ever having his own customized car featured at the auto show. Where does this rank in your growing off-the-court world?

RA: I think about, I count the blessings that I've been able to appreciate in my life. And, you know, I like to think that I've been a nice guy all of my life. And for the first quarter of my life, people have always said that you can't be nice, you gotta be somewhat of a jerk to get what you want. And I've never resorted to that behavior. People who are of quality content and hold high standards have always gravitated towards me, and it's allowed me to see and do things and be around people who are of like minds.

And what you do is, there's a level and there's a position that you put yourself in that allows you to be connected with those same type people and the like minds. And so I've appreciated that and it's always about not the immediate gratification, but the long-term effects and reward. And this, for me, is like a long-term-effect reward from consistency in my career and being able to establish myself as a force that people say, “We want to be a part of that because of his class and his stick-to-it-iveness, because we believe he resonates with who we are as a brand.”

CU360: Do you see people looking up to you differently with all that you’re doing off the court? Do they recognize that you're bigger than basketball?

RA: I think people don't see it. They don't understand it because so much comes across people’s airways through social media. For me, I want people to understand that there's so much more to life than just playing a sport for me, and because I play a sport well doesn't mean that I can't do other things well. There's that mentality, we hear it around America, where they tell us to shut up and dribble because we can't possibly be good at something more than just what we're good at. And the reason that they say that is because it's an indictment on them, because they can only do one thing well. Those type of people that say that, I'm, like, “Don't interrupt me doing something other than what I've done or on my path to my next greatness because you can do it. You can do it, if you stop looking at the negative and stop shining your light on things that are irrelevant, and being somebody who's of a downward spiral or a way we’re sold.”

I'm about moving forward and being progressive. When you think that way, you push this stuff out into the world and you bring those people around you, and then the more stuff that you connect to comes to you and you're able to tell a story. Like, I can talk about my life through Maserati now, you know, and how we connect and how we kind of are in a similar existence. We're refined, classy, simple, yet we have a power to us. We have a draw to us, and the people who see us understand us and appreciate us.

And that's something that I think trying to get young people to understand, like don't take the short-term money, let's go long term. Let's think about the bigger play that gets you like natured in where you're solidified long term, where when you look up long after your career is done, you've networked and you've bridged gaps and you've built relationships that will make you something greater than what you were when you started.

Ray Allen

Ray played his last NBA game in 2014, but didn't officially retire until 2016. (Griffin Harrington)

CU360: Final one for you. Tell me what that first drive will be like in Miami, where they'll ship the Maserati to you. And what are you going to be listening to?

RA: Somebody asked me earlier what my favorite driving music is, and I've got to say that Phil Collins is one of my favorites and it's certainly a great place in Miami to put on "In the Air Tonight.” And then Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music.” You know, that's a great riding song. You feel like the wind is blowing in your hair, or whatever hair I have. But you're just kind of moving. And it kind of just gets you. You don't drive fast, but you're just in a good space. Miami is not a driving city because there's so much traffic and there's not far that you have to go. But you definitely can cruise around a couple of different locations. You've got to cruise around Brickell and if you make it to South Beach, you're not doing bad for yourself.


Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of theHollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Additional reporting by Jared Zwerling.