May 3, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA;Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen (9) prepares to dunk the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Grizzlies 101-86. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Bowen. Steve Kerr. Dennis Rodman. Charles Oakley. Robert Horry.
These are just a few of the names that will come up when discussing the greatest role players in the history of the NBA. Players like Rodman and Horry were not the stars, but it would have been far more difficult for their teams to have the success they had without these players. It’s time we start mentioning Tony Allen in this list.
In the Memphis Grizzlies surprising 97-90 victory over Golden State on Tuesday night, the star performance went to one of the Grizzlies’ leaders, Mike Conley. Considering what Conley was up against, having just had facial surgery 8 days earlier, it was a remarkable performance. But the Grizzlies don’t knot up the series at a game a piece without the #FirstTeamAllDefense from Grizzlies’ shooting guard Tony Allen.
The performance Tony Allen gave Tuesday night sparked tons of reaction. Here is just a sampling.
This isn’t just a reaction to one game for Tony Allen. Allen has been tasked with shutting down the opposing team’s best players since his arrival in Memphis. Whether it was Kevin Durant last season or Chris Paul the year before, Tony Allen doesn’t just defend his opponents well, he disrupts everything they are accustomed to doing.
The brilliance of Tony Allen was on display against the Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Allen was everywhere. He was in their face, on the floor, and most importantly, in their minds. If you try to argue both players simply had a cold shooting performance, you didn’t watch the game close enough. Allen was every bit a part of what made Curry and Thompson struggle.
There are very few teams who would be willing to put Tony Allen on their team. Allen does only one thing well. He plays lights out defense against anyone he plays. He is the very definition of a role player. He isn’t going to light up the scoreboard, he isn’t going to rebound, he’s just going to take your best player and make them work like they have never worked before to get the looks and touches they are used to.
If you scoff at the notion that Tony Allen deserves to be mentioned among these players, ask yourselves where the teams they played for would be without them. Then ask yourself where the Grizzlies would be without Allen. Allen is a role player that might be the most important player on the team because he provides the Grizzlies with their Grit ‘N Grind identity.
It’s time we start putting the Grindfather on the list of best role players of all time.