Memphis Grizzlies star player Tony Allen is the one to watch this NBA season, as he’s been credited with bringing the heat back to the team.
Allen, a Chicago native, began his career with the Boston Celtics, and signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract with the Grizzlies.
Proving that you can take a baller out of Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out of his system, the 6-foot-4, 213-pound guard made news when he responded to a teammate’s trash talk with a swift punch to his face. Things have cooled down considerably for Allen, as the naysayers and instigators have all noted that he’s got the game to take the Grizzlies to the NBA Championship.
Reporter Scott Cacciola says of Allen: “He plays defense with super-caffeinated intensity and creates theater wherever his plays.”
Off the court, Allen has the blueprint for saving the disenfranchised children that populate his childhood neighborhood. He has a soft spot for these children, and has opened Tony Allen’s Grit and Grind Camp to keep them off the streets.
Allen visited rolling out’s Chicago office recently to talk about his love of the game, his hope for the children, and his daily grind.
Why were you compelled to open the Tony Allen Grit and Grind Camp?
I know a lot of kids in the neighborhood who come from single parent homes, low-income homes, and I was a product of that. My father wasn’t around a lot either, but I got guidance from coaches, so I want to come back and give them some words of encouragement.
Just by coming from that part of the city, I can feel their pain. I’m successful, so I thank God. God had blessed me and it’s only right to come back and give them the blueprint.
A 13-year-old made national headlines when he was shot to death while playing basketball near your old neighborhood. How would you respond to the random violence?
We need more programs like the Tony Allen Grit and Grind Camp where the kids ain’t gotta be outdoors. That takes them off the street; that gets them into activities. We need groups in our communities so the kids won’t be in that crossfire.
What words of encouragement do you give the kids in your camp?
Don’t cheat yourself. If you feel that basketball is something that you want to do, then do it, eat it, sleep it, live it; carry it on your back and wear it with pride. The whole thing in getting better is not doing it in front of somebody who is your coach, it’s doing it when ain’t nobody else looking. When you’re not humping and you’re not working on your craft, somebody else is. You’ve gotta stay motivated.
Did that Grizzlies haircut grow out?
Oh yeah! [laughs]. I got that simply to just go to shoot around and get the guys motivated and I was hoping that if they saw me putting the grizzly bear in my head, that would amp them up like, “this guy would do anything to come out here.” The glitter, I washed all of it out that same night, I just did it to try to motivate the guys. It worked; we beat the San Antonio Spurs, they’re the No. 1 team in the NBA. And we beat them.
Speaking of beating your opponents, you and Travis Leslie traded a few words, what are you going to say to him when you see him on the court?
I don’t indulge in little things like that. I just let the game do the talking. It’s a good thing that he used me as a marketing tool, you know, to get where he’s going.
Is it true that you prepare for your games by studying DVDs of past games?
That’s part of my job. I just figure if I get a rundown on somebody for myself, then I can study them. When the action is going down, I’m pretty familiar with all their moves and which hand he likes, his dominant hand; a lot of things come from watching that film. You learn your opponent.
Are you still playing your Xbox to help you as well?
Yeah. I play as much as I can, when I’m in Memphis, I live by myself, so I play the game a lot, put myself in positions where I’m going to be, and it’s all recreation. But it helps.
What is your typical day like? Doing interviews, working on my game, working out.
What is the Tony Allen workout?
I might do five miles on the bike, I try to stay off the treadmill, I don’t want to beat up my joints too much, there’s already some miles on it. I might do some bench presses to keep my upper body fit; sit-ups and swimming.
Who are you when you’re not on the court? I’m a silly dude, I’m a funny guy. I’m the next thing under Kevin Hart.
Could you perform comedy?
No, I couldn’t do comedy. I could probably do something like Nick Cannon’s, “Wildin’ Out.”
Are you single? What kind of lady are you looking for?
I ain’t looking for a lady! I’ve got a girl; I’ve been with her for a long time.
How are you able to keep your relationship strong with your schedule?
We have an understanding, like SWV. Communication — it rules a nation. You know how that goes, if you take care of home, you’re all good.
What will you do after basketball?
I love the game, and that’s real. A lot of people love the money, but I’ve been playing this kid’s game all my life, that’s why I love it. I couldn’t see myself running away from the game like that and sitting on a lot of money. No, I want to still be in the game, whether it’s coaching, refereeing, or working in NBA player development. I know this league, I saw some of the good things and I saw some of the bad things.