Woman of Substance with Shannon Allen : All In The Family

Shannon Allen (1)Miami’s NBA wives are a special bunch. Not only are they married to some of the top athletes on the planet, but are they are also known for being quite attractive and down to earth. One of the newest additions to this exclusive club is Shannon Allen, wife of Miami Heat player and 3-point maestro, Ray Allen. Shannon is a graduate of Northeastern University, a singer, actress and author of The Pregame Meal, a cookbook that takes from her experience of creating the perfect cuisine for high-performance.

The Allens moved to Miami with their brood of five children barely a year ago from Wellesley, Massachusetts, where her husband played for the Heat’s biggest rival, The Boston Celtics. However, the entire family, which includes daughter Tierra, 20, and sons Ray-Ray, 8; Walker, 6, Wynn, 3 and 1-year-old baby Wystan, seems to be making the transition seamlessly.

“The one thing people kept saying to us when we got here was “Welcome to the family.” And I don’t know if that’s Heat culture or if it’s Miami culture, but for a person that moved here in a kind of semi-tumultuous way, uprooting five young children and a life, there couldn’t have been anymore reassuring words.”

This kind of positivity bodes well for Allen, who has to stay strong and upbeat with the family’s own challenges, namely keeping her 6-year-old son Walker’s Type 1 diabetes in check on a near-constant basis. Walker was diagnosed at 17 months in the middle of a 2008 NBA Finals game between the Celtics and Lakers. Allen says, “We had just landed in LA , it was the moment Ray had been waiting for his entire career.” But instead of thinking of himself, Ray was concerned about his son, who was visibly sick and limp like a wet noodle. He insisted Shannon take him to the hospital before the game. She was shocked to discover the diagnosis, which she phoned to tell Ray moments before his game, but he was relieved to have an answer.

Shannon Allen (2)

“He said to me ‘What should I do?’ I said, ‘Go play your game and then get here.’ Ray ran off the court and got to the hospital eight minutes after the game ended.”

“He said to me ‘What should I do?’ I said, ‘Go play your game and then get here.’ Ray ran off the court and got to the hospital eight minutes after the game ended.” Instead of keeping the news to themselves, the couple has since dedicated themselves to educating people as to the early warning signs of Type 1 diabetes, which include excessive thirst, increased urination, fatigue, hunger and weight loss. “We could save someone’s life and really, what’s the point of being on a national stage and having this opportunity if you can’t use it as a teaching moment and help someone?”

In addition to appearing in PSA s and working with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDR F), Allen herself attends to the full time responsibility of monitoring her son’s blood sugar. “I sit outside of Walker’s classroom and I check his blood sugar every hour and a half. He gets 5-7 insulin injections a day, but the nighttime is the scariest. I check every two hours at night,” she says without blinking an eye. Allen credits Celtics co-owner Corinne Grousbeck, who has a visually impaired son, in helping her come to terms with her new role years ago and using it as an opportunity. “She said ‘You’ve been given an opportunity to be a better wife, a better mother, a better human, a better woman on this earth.’ And I kind of keep that in my bag of tricks,” says Allen wistfully.

The combination of Walker’s diabetes challenges and feeding her husband the right food to win on the court has made Allen a bit of a nutrition expert. She worked with Ray’s nutritionist to develop the perfect meal before a game, for training and what he needed more or less of for ideal BMI. She went organic, all grass-fed, and started focusing on the idea that food is potential. “Why bother putting something in your mouth that doesn’t help you be a better athlete, parent, or just better at your job?” She asks. That’s when Allen wrote her book, The Pregame Meal, that gave rise to her creating a popular cooking segment, which she executive produced and cohosted. “We had a professional athlete and chef on every show and it was about how to make quick, healthy, delicious meals to feed your home team and inspire your inner superstar,” Allen explains. The program aired for a year and a half before every Celtics game.

In addition to her book, Allen runs what she calls a “makeshift independent record label” out of her laundry room. She has a partner in New York and one artist they are representing, just to keep her toe in the game. Back at Northeastern, Allen was a Music Industry major and started a girls singing group called Shades that got picked up by Atlantic, and later, Motown Records. “We didn’t make much money,” she says with a laugh, but she did get to cut an album, sing a hit single, and tour the world performing. Now, she sings mostly in the house with her children and is completely content with that.

“If someone told me a year ago, ‘We want you to leave Wellesley and move to Miami because Miami is a more family-friendly city,’ I would have told them they were out of their mind. But it is. We’re together outside more, we paddleboard, we kayak, we go to the beach, we walk our dogs. I’m 38-years-old and I’ve never lived like this. I mean, I can’t believe people have been living like this and I didn’t know it. When you live in the east coast, in the Northeast, in the middle of the winter, you are running from the cold.” Indeed, Allen has lived in some fairly unfavorable climates following her husband from Milwaukee to Portland, Boston, and finally, sunny Miami. “I love Miami,” says Allen. “I don’t really know that I want to live anywhere else.”