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McDonald’s taught Ray Allen an early lesson about conditioning that helped shape an 18-year career

Jul 10, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Ray Allen Getty Images

Ray Allen just opted in for an 18th NBA season at age 38. That decision was certainly made easier by the fact his 17th season ended with a championship ring, one the Miami Heat would not have won without him. Plus he is still effective — he averaged 10.9 points a game and shot 41.9 percent from three last season.

Which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. Playing at that level, keeping your body in tune like that for 1,378 games (regular season and playoffs) and deciding at least 82 more at his age was a good idea.

Few players take their health as seriously as Allen (who is in Washington D.C. this week speaking to congress on behalf of the health of his six-year-old son with diabetes).

Allen can thank a Hartford area McDonald’s for teaching him that lesson early on (and he didn’t have to go the full Morgan Spurlock to learn his lesson).

“There was a time in college where before practice I went to McDonald’s and I had a quarter pounder with cheese, I went to practice that day and I just remembered I felt so sluggish out there,” Allen told ProBasketballTalk. “And I was looking around thinking ‘Coach is just working us to hard’ because I just feel so tired. I ask the guys around me, ‘Do you guys feel tired? Because I just can’t move around like I want to” and everybody is like ‘no, I’m good.’

“And I was thinking about it all practice — wow I had a cheeseburger before I came to practice, I can’t do that anymore. From that day forward I started thinking about everything I put in my body that was preventing me from performing. I started realizing it is connected.

“So when I got to the NBA I had a pregame routine, a game day routine. How I worked out affected how I ate.”

Allen’s pregame routine and ritual are the most precise and detailed in the league (Dirk Nowitizki comes close). Allen is nearly OCD about his routine — he doesn’t like it changed. He wants that structure in his life.

He said he has tried to preach that to other players over the years — the usual pattern for players entering the league is that they eat pretty badly for a few years, but as their bodies start to age a little they realize what Allen figured out in college.

“That’s the adjustment,” Allen said. “I think so many people fall out of favor when they get to the NBA because you don’t have a structure. It’s important for a lot of guys, when they go through college, you learn a structure, and you got to carry that structure over (to the NBA). But some guys they get to the NBA, or any professional sport at all, and they say ‘I don’t have a coach breathing down my neck all day I can do what I want eating wise, I can manage my own time and do what I want and stay up late.’ Some guys almost rebel.

“But you almost have to go in the other direction. You have to take this as an opportunity to say, ‘I’m in the NBA and I want to make a lot of money, if I want to be around for a long time, I have to make sure I prioritize this job… The money is really a non-issue; it’s really about being effective and successful at your job. The money will come along with it.”

Allen is more focused now on the health of his son, and that’s why he is in Washington, to lobby for the Special Diabetes Program – legislation focused on multi-year funding of Type 1 diabetes research that congress must renew every couple years.

“My son Walker, he is six years old and he has Type 1 diabetes,” Allen said. “He’s a delegate, part of the children’s congress. Every two years now the Children’s Congress comes to Washington to make sure we continue to hold our elected politicians to task for continued funding, especially for diabetes programs.”

Allen knows this is one place his celebrity and status can help his child and others like him — Allen and his wife have done a number of public service announcements with Walker, and they are personally involved in the cause. Which includes going to Washington every couple years to talk to congress about the realities of the disease and the need for research.

“I just tell them a little bit about who we are as a family and who Walker is,” Allen said. “Basically giving a human side to the story — diabetes is not just a word or a disease, there are people who fight every day to keep their children alive. There are families all across America like that.

“I’m just a dad just trying to make sure his son gets the proper care that he deserves and hope that one day they find a cure. It just so happens that I do have a high profile job and I walk into a room of high profile people and let them know this what I deal with regardless of what I’m dealing with professionally.”

He’s going to get to deal with those professional issues one more year. Thanks to the care he has taken of his body. And with a little nudge from McDonald’s.

  1. nolahxc - Jul 10, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    “Which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.”

    There’s certainly no better way to start a new paragraph!

    • fatcamper - Jul 10, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      “Coach is just working us to hard”

      I’m a bit shocked he improperly uses “to” in place of “too” in his internal thoughts and speech.

    • jimeejohnson - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      Topic sentence police at work.

  2. fm31970 - Jul 10, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    This Ray Allen guy, he “gets” it. Always has, too.

  3. edwardemanuelson - Jul 10, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Say what you will about Ray, but this Spurs fan thinks he’s a stand up guy. Keep fighting the good fight!

  4. saint1997 - Jul 10, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    An amazing story from one of the players in the NBA who I respect the most

  5. yousuxxors - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Allen will always be one of my favorite players.

  6. GT - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Pure class.

  7. MyTeamsAllStink - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    Ironic a resteraunt that sells double quarter pounders gets lumped in with good conditioning

    • biasedhomer - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      Do you even read more than just the title?

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      No, but it is ironic that the best High School basketball players are the McDonald’s All-American Team.

      Is it as ironic as rain on your wedding day? A free ride when you already paid? The good advice that you just didn’t take? (Yes. Because none of those situations are even 1% ironic) So yes, it is ironic, dontcha think?

      • badintent - Jul 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Preach it brother.! Fast food kills over 175,000 people indirectly due to high blood pressure causing strokes, diabetes blood clots,kidney failure,etc. Drink a smoothie instead.

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    Can I comment on how awesome Ray is, or would that be classless?

  9. jeffw - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    So, I’m guessing McDonalds will not be using Ray in any of their advertising or endorsement deals… Just a guess.

  10. vcupats - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    That’s a lesson for everybody, not just pro athletes. In your late teens and early twenties, you can pound junk food and not see the consequences. Problem is, as you get older your metabolism slows down but your eating habits never change. Start eating healthy and exercising when you’re young – you’ll never regret it.

  11. wgray981 - Jul 10, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Personally I think McDonalds gets a bad rap…IT WASN’T DESIGNED TO EAT EVERYDAY! People only get fat from fast food because they are stupid! There is nothing wrong with eating a few hamburgers every so often.

    • arrowgargantuan - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      How about because it tastes terrible?

      • fm31970 - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        And is terrible for your body, no matter how often you eat it.

    • jimeejohnson - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      It’s the quality of fast food that makes it so bad for you. The only way they can price it so low is to use the cheapest quality ingredients, kind of like what most public schools use in their food. There will always be more stupid than smart people: hence, the success of fast food.

    • davidly - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      They don’t get a bad rap. They are a multi-trillion dollar business with barely any push-back on the influence they have on human health.

      What does that mean, “It wasn’t designed to eat everyday”? Designed? Really? It’s called food, and contrary to self-proclaimed popular opinion, and the image portrayed in the millions worth of advertising McDonald’s puts out to counter ostensible popular opinion, just one of their burgers is NOT DESIGNED TO EAT.

      Tell that to your kid and see if he swallows it.

    • helladonks - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      yeah, nothing wrong with eating a few hamburgers every so often at all. hell, eat em every DAY if you want. you can still be completely healthy eating hamburgers, so long as your smart about how its prepared, what kind of meat is used, etc. fast food hamburgers, however, are entirely different. there is literally nothing good about a fast food burger, from the toppings, to condiments, down to the meat itself.

  12. deiong - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    wonder how much was paid for that endorsement?

  13. garyleee - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Wow I’m dying for a Big Mac with xtra sauce&no onions!!!

    • wordpress3zzz - Jul 11, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      “from” not “for”

  14. telergy - Jul 10, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Why all teams don’t closely monitor the nutrition of their athletes always boggled my mind. “You are what you eat.” They work them out in practice, in the weight room but then skip and ignore the most important part..food intake. I’d have a nutrionist/cook assigned to each player to prepare healthy meals at home. Maybe teams already do this…but you never hear about it. Over the long run youll have more players like Ray Allen playing more quality years than the next guy (someone prob like Lamar Odom who just eats junk).

  15. jlinatl - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    It would have been nice to link to an article about his diet/conditioning since your reference it.

  16. markdepace - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    It was probably the mcdonalds down in mansfield on 195 rofl

  17. jimeejohnson - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    I love cheese, but as an athlete I avoid it in order to maximize performance. Dairy is an energy draining food. You give up dairy, you’ll feel a huge increase in energy within a few weeks. Your body will expel tons of mucous. You will need to increase calories from other foods as dairy is calorie-rich. Good luck!

  18. stayhigh_247 - Jul 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    you dont have to be a world class athlete to take care of your body. everybody needs to step up their game in that aspect. good article.

  19. louhudson23 - Jul 11, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    I remember reading an interview with Ray Allen many years back. In it,he was asked why he had not gotten any tattoos,which had become so prevalent around the league…he answered(paraphrasing)” I don’t want to have to apologize to the the 44 year old Ray Allen for something the 24 year old Ray Allen did”….

  20. wordpress3zzz - Jul 11, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    funny how the headline makes it seem like McDonalds somehow advised Ray or helped him to do the right thing by being good, but then in the story you find out it was because McD’s was so bad for him that he learned to avoid that garbage young.

  21. helladonks - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    reminds me of bill clinton eating a big mac after a jog

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