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Ray Allen credits fugacious NBA player for helping him become an all-time free-throw shooter

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Spinning off a pick’em between Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball and their shooting woes, newly-enshrined Hall of Famer Ray Allen expounded on what it takes to reach all-time levels of greatness when it comes to shooting. Among them, Allen credited a fugacious NBA teammate, Jeff Nordgaard, as his free-throw muse, helping him go from an 82-percent shooter to a perennial high-80s-to-90s percenter throughout his career.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I credit a player in Milwaukee by the name of Jeff Nordgaard,” Allen said as a recent guest in The Dan Patrick Show. “Jeff and I used to always have a free-throw game and Jeff was an incredible free-throw shooter and early on, he gave me somebody to compete against, somebody to challenge. He was always swishes, always swishes, so I was constantly doing that with him.”

Allen is right, but Nordgaard only played one year in the NBA after being drafted with the 53rd overall pick in 1996. Nordgaard’s NBA reputation is merely a spec of dust of 1.4 points and 1.1 rebounds throughout his lone season with the Bucks, making only 13 appearances with the team before resuming his career overseas after the 1997-98 season.

Allen was also selected by the Bucks during the talent-loaded 1996 NBA Draft and played during his rookie season, unlike Nordgaard, who stayed overseas for one year. When the two met on the practice floor, Allen would progress from hitting 82.3 percent in his rookie season to a deadeye 87.5 percent in his second season — only trending up from there, even after Nordgaard’s departure.

Ray-Ray is now sixth all-time in free-throw shooting with an 89.39 percent career clip from the foul line, a whisker behind Chauncey Billups at 89.40 percent.

This anecdote is a testament that lessons are there to be learned in the NBA, no matter who they come from.