Photos: Kevin Couliau (@asphaltchronicles)

The UNITE stories go deeper on Jordan Brand’s new film series celebrating the power of basketball. UNITE is a rallying cry for inspiring and empowering the next generation to never fly alone.

Ray Allen, who’s been Jordan Brand family since 1997, is no stranger to teamwork. In fact, during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech last year, emotions ran high as he thanked his colleagues, family and fans with the sincerity of someone who knows his talent was supported by many.

In the spirit of Jordan Brand’s UNITE campaign, Ray Allen has spent his retirement spreading the game of basketball around the world. For SOLEDXB in Dubai, Ray joined Jordan Brand to do just that. He gave talks, coached games, customized shoes and even gave away some special Air Jordan VIIs.

We caught up with Ray Allen to talk about his travels, the “winning” perspective and how basketball brings us together.

What’s it like being in Dubai this time?

My mom can’t believe I’m in Dubai right now. To be able to travel the world because you’re good at something is an incredible gift.

I was looking at pictures from when I was here last time, back in 2015. It’s amazing how different the landscape looks. Things have changed tremendously. I like progress and growth. I always tell people that if you sit on a bicycle, and you don’t pedal, you fall down. When you think about it, life is movement. It’s a growth mindset. When we don’t grow, we don’t learn.

What perspective are you sharing with the young people here?

Having been around the world, I tell young people all the time how special basketball has been to me. I probably wouldn’t be in Dubai right now if I didn’t play basketball. People in Dubai might not know who I am if I didn’t work hard or perfect my craft.

I’m only 25 years ahead of the players I’m speaking to around the world. I’m trying to give them the tools and opportunities to follow in my footsteps, to see that I’m not superhuman. Everything I’ve done in my life can be replicated by the young people I encounter. Through basketball or another sport, they can travel where I’ve traveled. It’s true. The question is whether everyone’s willing to make the sacrifices.

How do you talk about the challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them?

When you’re a professional athlete, and even during college, every day is a struggle. You have to wake up and log at least four to six miles per day while jumping up and down. During my rookie year, we lost a lot of games. I still “won” in small ways — getting up and doing my job every single day and learning how to be professional. It took me 12 years to win my first championship.

I learned so many lessons along the way. Sometimes, the hardest thing is figuring out who’s with you, and who’s going to work as hard as you’re going to work. There are so many moving parts. Some people say they want to win, but their behavior doesn’t mimic winning. I only knew that once I became part of a winning situation. It takes sacrifice. When you win, that’s when you realize how tough it is to win.

What’s an example of the sacrifices people have to make, in order to win?

Well, I was in China a couple months ago. It was 9 a.m., and we were going to a gym. My kids were at home, where it was nighttime. I FaceTimed them to say, “When you’re not working, somebody else is, and they’re going to win when you meet.” I had to tell my kids, because it’s the truth. When my kids are laying their heads on their pillows, these kids are about to go to work. You have to always remember that when you take a break or think you’ve worked enough, somebody else is getting more work in. When you talk about the greats in basketball, they are the ones who always got their work in.

“In basketball and in life, we have to remember to keep going, for ourselves and for each other.”

What are you enjoying the most in your retirement?

I’m enjoying seeing how truly global the game is. I had opportunities to travel throughout my career, but with a good team, you’re playing into May and June. By the time summer comes, you want to rest and do your own thing. I’ve been able to travel so much more in my retirement.

The one thing I tell the young people who I come in contact with is how truly magical the game of basketball is. It transforms people all over the world. I love having the opportunity to meet and see different people, who speak different languages, but still rebound, pass and shoot all the same.

How would you describe the powerful ways that basketball unites people?

I start by saying that everything we do affects those around us, positively and negatively. At the end of the day, movement is life. No matter what you do, you keep moving. The sun will come up the next day. And when it does, the world is ready for you, regardless of what happened to you yesterday. In basketball and in life, we have to remember to keep going, for ourselves and for each other.

For me, playing sports is not personal. I want to win. I want everyone else who wants to win to assemble alongside me. When you come together with individuals like that, they become family, because you started with a common goal. Most people don’t give up on it. They stay with it.

Learn more about UNITE here and look forward to more stories in the coming months.