Tony Allen is a fantastic basketball player, a thrilling and often dominant defender and team leader for the Memphis Grizzlies.
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Tony Allen is unique.
Tony Allen’s high school grades were so bad when he wasn’t playing basketball they stuck him on the football team in order to keep his scholastic interest up while giving him a fake name in order to shield him from the eyes of those who knew he was ineligible to play.
Tony Allen’s grades moved back up, and he became amazing at football.
Antonio Brown Tony Allen had to stop playing football because people were starting to take too much notice of this really good football player.
Tony Allen is the best.
But Allen doesn’t apologize for who he is. That’s been the case all his life, even times when he took on someone else’s identity to help stay out of trouble back in high school. Veteran NBA guard Will Bynum, who grew up in Chicago with Allen and was a high school teammate, still laughs at how it all went down.
Allen kept himself eligible during basketball seasons as a standout at Crane Tech on Chicago’s west side. But after the season ended, it was a challenge to maintain focus and keep those grades up to par.
“I moved in with him to make sure he was going to class,” Bynum said of Allen’s junior season in high school. “So during the offseason, to keep him out of trouble, they had him playing football. The thing is, he got real good in football and started scoring touchdowns. But he was ineligible. So they put his name down as Antonio Brown, so he could play. He had, like, six touchdowns in a game and was in the newspaper. And all these college coaches would come to our school, like, ‘Who is this 6-4 tight end?’ At some point, he had to stop playing because he was scoring too much and getting too much attention.”
Wallace went on to note that Allen went on to college at Oklahoma State, graduating with a degree in education.
That anecdote, Allen’s turnaround and the eventual result (he graduated with a degree in education!) are as fantastic as Allen himself. He certainly had his NBA missteps in years’ past, including a Chicago-area shooting incident (for which Allen was found not guilty) that led to rumors that he was held out of a 2009 playoff game against the Chicago Bulls because of fear of reprisal.
He was a stellar member of that outfit, however, and remains the heart and soul of a Grizzlies team that is currently giving a 67-win Golden State Warriors squad all it can handle. Allen wasn’t being disrespectful when he shrugged off league MVP Stephen Curry after Game 1, and he’s not being boastful or self-promoting when he pulls off stuff like this:
That’s just Tony, that’s why he endures. That’s just the guy who had to start playing football for the weirdest and most troubling of reasons – his grades slacked off during basketball’s offseason – and had to stop for even stranger reasons, because he became too damn good at it.
(Also, I wonder if you’re at a game and yell “ANTONIO BROWN!” at Allen during a contest what his reaction would be. Would he flinch?)
Allen, the surgically repaired face of Mike Conley, the once-mocked Marc Gasol and obvious team cancer Zach Randolph will take on the Warriors yet again on Monday in what will be a desperate Game 4. You might be rooting for this record-setting Warriors squad to get its act together on both ends and advance to what seemed like their obvious championship destiny, but you also cannot help but love this Memphis Grizzlies crew. Er’rybody should be smitten with this team.
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