You may have heard the advice — “always finish what you started.” This encouragement can certainly be applied to one’s educational journey.
Recently, former NBA player Ray Allen received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Connecticut (UConn).
Among other graduates, Allen posed for a picture with his retired No. 34 basketball jersey hanging behind him.
He first attended the university in the ’90s and played three seasons before joining the NBA. Today, Allen is still the only UConn men’s basketball player with his jersey retired, according to Connecticut’s Hartford Courant.
Ray Allen with his fellow UConn graduates under his retired jersey is an iconic photo 💙
(via @NutmegNews) pic.twitter.com/WdXqg1Cwgl
— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) May 7, 2023
As Allen mentioned on Instagram, distractions shortened his college journey, which started in 1993. He entered the NBA in 1996 and was drafted to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the fifth overall pick.
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“It’s hard to really describe the feeling connected to it because it’s been a pursuit of mine for such a long time,” Allen told the Hartford Courant. “You start as a kid in elementary school, and you’re just on this journey your whole life to try to graduate high school and then go to college. I loved my time here as a student-athlete. Fortunately and unfortunately for me, I had a higher calling at the time and it was sad for me because I left here and I really enjoyed being here as an athlete.”
While Allen played in the NBA, he still aspired to receive an undergraduate degree. Later when his daughter, Tierra, became the first in his family to graduate, he became even more determined.
“It just kept me with that fire burning inside my belly to make sure that I continued through on that mission and didn’t lose sight of it, because you become apathetic toward it and it doesn’t matter,” Allen told the outlet. “And then you make up reasons why you’ll never do it, why it doesn’t matter. For me I just wanted to make sure that I kept it in the background of my brain so hopefully one day, when things work out – and that’s what happened.”
He continued: “[Tierra] inspired me because I saw her graduate and now my kids see me graduate. My son is 18, he’s about to graduate from high school and move on to college. So now they’ll forever remember these moments. They’ve been in this building when my jersey was retired. So this building, it not only means athletic, but it also symbolizes academic as well.”
Allen returned to the university in 2008 after snagging two championships rings with the Boston Celtics.
The outlet also reports he took one class per semester while playing in the NBA and later added another. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he dived further into his studies and has now earned his degree.
“I have officially completed my degree. I’m so thankful for everyone in my life that encouraged me, and inspired me to continue to pursue my degree. What a lovely day it was,” Allen shared on Instagram.