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A Tribute to Tony Allen in Memphis

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Tony Allen reportedly signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Grizzlies Nation knew this outcome was near inevitable after Memphis made other moves in free agency. In addition, on July 5th, Allen took the Memphis Grizzlies out of his Twitter bio, and his fate felt sealed. He was moving on, and the era of the Core Four was ending.

However, with the changing of times, fans can never forget the impact Tony Allen brought to the team. This impact was not only on the court, but TA brought a mentality to the Memphis Grizzlies to complete this tough-nosed, Grit ‘N Grind style of basketball that was forming. The legacy of Tony Allen in Memphis will never be forgotten and will always be cherished for years to come.

Allen began his Memphis Grizzlies career in 2010 after a six season stint with the Boston Celtics. He was the last piece to the Core Four in Memphis after Zach Randolph had been acquired the season before. Bringing in Allen was the sign of a defense-first mentality for Memphis basketball.

Grit ‘N Grind basketball was born.

The Grindfather coined this style of basketball after he was always described in two ways- Gritty and Always Grinding. TA was constantly the guy who was thrown to defend the other team’s best player, and he locked them down time after time. Kobe Bryant has described Tony Allen multiple times as the best defender he has ever faced. His dominance on this side of the ball made him a huge asset that Memphis gained in the 2010 offseason.

In his first season with the Grizzlies, TA flourished earning himself NBA All-Defense Second Team honors. Memphis got him at the peak of his career defensively and that showed in his seven-year career with the Grizzlies. A resume of incredible defensive awards followed with Allen earning three NBA All-Defense First Teams and two other Second Teams in the past two years, as well. He has been an absolute lock down defender almost his whole career and has been honored for his skill six times. Allen is tied for 20th for the most All-Defense awards in NBA history.

Tony Allen’s career in Memphis surpassed expectations. He had his best career statistics in Memphis. In his seven seasons with the Grizzlies, he posted a Defensive Rating (an estimated amount of points allowed per 100 possessions) of 101. To put it into perspective, TA’s career Defensive Rating is 101.6 and that ranks 5th best among active players. Also, he averaged 1.7 steals per game with Memphis. He does so much in addition that is not picked up by a box score. He will not create crazy highlights, but he is a guy that will push to the limits defensively for a win in every single game. Allen will go down as one of the best wing defenders to play the game once he finally says enough is enough.

TA has thrived in the role of the guy who does not get the recognition he deserves. Even with a non-existent offensive game, he made a career on being a one-dimensional, all defense player.

For the past couple seasons, it is crazy to think about those statistics while considering TA being 35 years of age. Unfortunately, he has lost some quickness at his age, but he counters that by having to guess the opponents move just a little earlier. As this style relies on the overall team defense much more, it does not downplay his defensive ability. His age does not seem to have slowed down his overall performance.

Tony Allen will always be a legend in regards to Memphis basketball. His personality and tenacity were the qualities Grizz Nation adored. Videos like this highlight his peak moments at the Forum. A spark by his defense and pass ahead were exactly what the crowd needed to explode to the next decibel level.

He carried such a high swagger level in his games in Memphis that it was infectious to the rest of the team. TA knew he was the best defender on the court, and he would let anyone else know about it. Shown in this clip from the Warriors playoff series, Allen knows he was First Team All-Defense, and he loved to let everyone else on the court know it too.

This swagger does not come off as arrogance, it comes off as confidence. This style took other Grizzlies to another level. Teammates of his had one of the most competitive, loudest leaders urging them all on to play better. Having someone grinding for 48 minutes is what Tony Allen will give you. He will lay his body on the line for the team whenever necessary. He is the definition of grit.

The Core Four worked so well because of the personalities meshed together. It started with Mike and Marc, and it came together with Z-Bo and TA. These four players vaulted the Grizzlies to this playoff level for all those years. They each played a role, but Allen’s role was the constant grit brought each night for 48 minutes. He never let up.

No matter how Tony Allen finishes his career, he will always be adored by the people of Memphis. The Grindfather created the Grit ‘N Grind motto that embodies Memphis culture. Grit ‘N Grind will never be forgotten and neither will the contributions from Tony Allen.

Best of luck in New Orleans TA, Memphis will miss ya.