At a lot of NBA players' summer basketball camps, your actual contact with said players might be limited to a brief meet-and-greet, a quick high-five and an autographed piece of memorabilia and maybe a low-key game of Knockout or H-O-R-S-E (or, depending on scheduling constraints, perhaps P-I-G). Well, as you're probably aware, Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen — who, really, is a "shooting" guard in name only — isn't like a lot of NBA players; he's a little bit different, in some pretty amazing ways.
So when Allen brought his "Grit & Grind Basketball Camp" to Stillwater, Okla. — where he'd starred for coach Eddie Sutton's Oklahoma State Cowboys from 2002 through 2004, earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors as a senior — he wasn't about to give his young charges just any ol' camp experience. From Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
He was on the basketball court, so, naturally, Tony Allen couldn't help himself.
Lathered in sweat, the Memphis Grizzlies' defensive savant was going hard, grit and grind as he calls it, blocking 10-year-olds and posting up 12-year-olds.
One kid, who dared attempt to cross up Allen at his own basketball camp — this the first ever in Stillwater — had his pocket picked in a drill, with a playful Allen trash-talking him immediately after the steal: “First-Team All-D, baby, First-Team All-D.”
“I'm actually catching my breath, because one of the kids was pretty good,” Allen admitted after a spirited 3-on-3 game. “Any time I get on the hardwood, I'm competing 110 percent. I even fouled a kid today. That was a little rough, but I got to win.”
If that "First-Team All-D, baby" taunt sounds familiar, perhaps it got stuck in your mind (as it did mine) when Allen broke it out after a late-game steal-and-dunk to seal a win in Game 2 of the Grizzlies' Western Conference semifinals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here's hoping T.A. left off the [expletive] he shared with the Chesapeake Energy Arena faithful after ripping the young ball-handler.
While I love the catchphrases that have come to define the Grizzlies' hard-nosed, defense-first squad over the past several seasons — the immortal "All heart. Grit, grind" that gives Allen's camp its name, Zach Randolph's towel- and anthem-inspiring "We don't bluff", etc. — it's kind of a bummer that they already exist and are locked into the hoops lexicon. I mean, "I even fouled a kid today" is basically a perfectly Grizzly thing to say, and yet it'll never reach the top of the team's slogan charts. Oh, well. I guess that's the price Allen and the Grizzlies pay for being awesome.
Everything about this feels 100 percent appropriate and right. An unwavering commitment to defense has made Allen a valuable NBA commodity; an unwavering commitment to the identity-defining, community-building personality that goes along with that on-court work has made Allen someone whom the Grizzlies eagerly paid $20 million for the next four years. His willingness to go all out all the time is what's made him matter — why wouldn't it make him an awesome camp counselor?
Now that this is out, though, I'd have to imagine that every camper who's feeling him/herself is going to come after Allen, looking to shake him one-on-one. And I have a difficult time imagining any NBA player who'd be more eager to accept that challenge than "The Grindfather."
Hat-tip to Trey Kerby at The Basketball Jones.