"Basketball has grown to such a level, but never will it ever compare to the impact that our government has on the whole world, and our president," the Celtics guard said Tuesday after attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
"I think I'll remember the magnitude of people that were there. It was so overwhelming. ... Sitting right in front of the Capitol, all people kept doing was looking behind them. You could see all the way from the Capitol building to the (Washington) Monument. You could see millions of people. It was amazing to watch."
While his teammates flew to Miami to get ready for Wednesday night's game against the Heat, Allen was in Washington wending his way through the crowds craning to catch a glimpse of the new president. After walking for an hour in subfreezing temperatures to reach his seat, Allen took it all in.
"I was sitting down there with mobs and mobs of people," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We were all down there in the cold; we were all bundled together and listening to Obama speak. We were all just Americans."
Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca was also impressed by the crowds.
"The whole setting was just Norman Rockwell America, with the flags flying on the Capitol. It was cold, but the sun was shining," he said. "It was people coming together; kind of a peaceful feeling came over the crowd. The crowd had a hope and a joy. For that many people to be that peaceful, was very moving."
Pagliuca said he was proud to attend the inauguration as a representative of the franchise that, under patriarch Red Auerbach, was the first to draft a black player, the first to field an all-black starting five and the first to hire a black coach.
"When you have the legacy of Red Auerbach, who was a pioneer in civil rights, it gives the Celtics a connection with a historic day like this," he said.
Auerbach died in 2006, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers used the occasion to teach his predominantly black team about the former coach, general manager and team president's role in integrating the NBA. But the players needed no prodding when presented with history this time.
They voted to get up early and fly to Miami so they would arrive in time to watch Obama's speech on TV live, even though Rivers offered to tape it for them so they could watch at their leisure. Landing just before noon, they watched the new president on television in the charter office at the airport.
Allen flew down and joined them at their hotel Tuesday night - a long day, but one he won't forget.
"The American people want to be held in high esteem around the world. They want America to get back to the days when we held our heads high around the world," Allen said. "As soon as I got down there, I was like, 'Wow. We're back.' Not necessarily world dominance, but world acceptance.
"It definitely had some undertones of Martin Luther King, asking for the best out of people, asking people to be better. He moved the crowd. Everybody was nodding their head up and down."
For Pagliuca, the high point of the speech was Obama talking about his father's experience with segregation.
"He (Obama) does not speak out of bitterness or out of any kind of malice. He only speaks of positive change," the Celtics owner said. "I really think that in this position, he'll be able to bring it about."