MIAMI — They were handing out Oscars on Sunday night in Los Angeles while Ray Allen was busy 2,700 miles away at AmericanAirlines Arena drilling all three of his 3-point attempts against Cleveland.
But one day might Allen instead be scoring at the Academy Awards?
“You never know,’’ the Miami Heat guard said about whether he ever could win an Oscar. “Crazier things have happened.’’
Allen, 37, still has a few years left in the NBA. But whenever he retires he plans to become an actor.
“Oh, yes,” Allen said when asked if wants to act. “It’s just something that’s going to keep me busy and something that can challenge you and keep you focused on a daily basis.’’
Allen has Hollywood experience. He gained acclaim for playing a major role alongside Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s “He Got Game.’’
Allen, who starred as basketball player Jesus Shuttlesworth, filmed the movie following his rookie year of 1996-97 and it came out in 1998. Since then, though, his only acting credit has been a lesser role in the 2001 flop “Harvard Man’’ in which he also was cast as a basketball player.
“Basketball has just taken precedent,’’ Allen said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida about why he hasn’t tackled any significant roles since “He Got Game.” “I haven’t been able to find the time. That took my whole summer (of 1997 after his Milwaukee Bucks had failed to make the playoffs). Now, I’ve been playing in the playoffs. Mostly, you go into June and that time is so limited.”
Not that Allen needed convincing he could go from NBA to screen star, but it sure didn’t hurt when he ran into Leonardo DiCaprio a few years ago in Las Vegas.
DiCaprio was said to have liked “He Got Game.” He told Allen he should pursue acting when he retires.
“DiCaprio, he’s a basketball fan,’’ said Allen, the most prolific 3-point marksman in NBA history and a certain Hall of Famer. “He’s a Lakers fan from growing up in L.A. I was hanging out with him in Vegas, and he definitely told me to keep trying and keep going. A lot of people have told me that I should keep going.’’
For “He Got Game,” Allen was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Male Performance. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that Allen “is that rarity, an athlete who can act.’’
It’s hard to find an NBA player who hasn’t seen the movie, which featured Allen as a highly recruited high school basketball star and the son of the Washington character Jake Shuttlesworth, in prison after being convicted for the accidental killing of his wife.
“You ask any player and he’ll say that he nailed it,’’ Heat guard James Jones said of Allen’s role.
Miami guard Mario Chalmers called it “one of my favorite movies.’’ He said Allen’s teammates sometimes call him by his character’s name.
“We do it sometimes during games when he catches a hot streak or he does something crazy,’’ Chalmers said. “We’re like, ‘Jesus.’ Sometimes he just looks over and smiles.’’
Allen has been called that name plenty of times before. But while he has great memories of working on the film with Lee and Washington, he eventually would like to move on from acting roles related to being an athlete.
“I would like to do something outside of that realm,’’ Allen said. “I wouldn’t want to be typecast as just being an athlete. You have to expand yourself and get out of your comfort zone.’’
Allen, who did work with an acting coach for eight weeks before doing “He Got Game,’’ believes his NBA career also helps prepare him for the movies since he’s used to performing under pressure and at a high level. He called it an asset knowing how to be coached and being part of a team.
There’s also no doubting Allen’s charisma. He’s one of the NBA’s most well-spoken players.
“He’s well-versed,’’ Jones said. “He’s very charming and charismatic. I think it will be an easy transition for him (to being an actor), and he’ll have the confidence to excel because he’s been there before.’’
Allen’s work ethic also could come in handy. He’s one of the best-conditioned players in the NBA and regularly arrives very early to games, practices and shootarounds to get shots up.
“He’s worked on his jump shots all his life,’’ said Heat forward Shane Battier. “If he worked that hard in acting, he’ll be a good actor. … He did great (in ‘He Got Game’) for an athlete. Having no (long-term) formal training, it’s not easy to be featured in a full-length feature film. He’s got work to do, but I think he’s got a leg up on the competition.’’
There hasn’t been much competition when it comes to NBA players in the movies. Shaquille O’Neal was panned for his roles in 1996’s “Kazaam’’ and 1997’s “Steel.’’ Michael Jordan’s “Space Jam’’ in 1996 wasn’t exactly a slam dunk.
Allen laughed when it was suggested he and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have turned in the best performances by NBA players. Abdul-Jabbar played pilot Roger Murdock in the 1980 spoof “Airplane!’’
One thing is for sure. No former pro athlete ever has won an Academy Award.
Come back for a future Oscar night and maybe Allen will be the first to score one.