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Tony Allen: Tenacious

Tony Allen possesses what may seem like the simple but essential qualities every NBA player should have. He is defensive-minded and a master of preparation, hustle and intensity. He prides himself on something you just can’t teach – effort. Almost always guarding the opposing team’s premier offensive threat, Allen is frequently charged with holding many of the NBA’s superstars at bay.

“Solid.” One word Tony Allen uses to describe the example he tries to set defensively for his teammates. ‘Solid’ may be putting it lightly.

Allen is currently ranked fourth in the NBA in steals this season with 1.94 per game and leads all qualifying players in steal percentage (4.0) averaging 25.4 minutes per game. Since joining Memphis at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Allen has not been kind to the opposing team’s offense. Over that period, he has recorded 539 (ranked eighth overall) steals and has helped anchor a Grizzlies defense that has held opponents to the third lowest points-per-game average (89.3) in the league in the same time frame.

Grit-N-Grind flows through Allen’s blood. His philosophy on defense comes down to more than just holding an opposing player to a certain number statistically.

When defended by Allen, NBA players shoot a percentage that is 7.5 percent worse than what they usually shoot, perhaps proving that some of the most telling statistics are not always included in the box score.

Allen has no shortage of respect around the league for his tough and never quit attitude on the defensive end, even garnering the respect of the fourth highest scoring player in NBA history and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant.

Tony Allen defending Kobe Bryant

Allen was named the toughest player in the league in October in a survey of all 30 NBA General Managers by NBA.com. Allen fuels his teammates with his passion and colorful on the court mannerisms, which have been some of Mike Conley’s favorite moments since becoming his teammate.

Allen’s personality in combination with his tenacious defense has endeared him to the city of Memphis. The Grindfather has become a symbol and representation of its hardworking residents’ blue-collar identity.

2014 was a special year for the Allen family as Tony and his wife welcomed their new baby boy which Allen affectionately dubbed “The Grindson” via a twitter post announcing his birth.

Allen and his Grizzlies teammates hope to make 2015 a special year as well leading into this year’s NBA postseason in a season already chock-full of memorable moments.

The theory of ‘defense and teamwork wins championships’ can repeatedly be confirmed throughout NBA history. It is no secret that a common recipe for teams that hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy is to have at least one bona fide superstar. The Grizzlies do not have Michael Jordan, the Grizzlies do not have Kobe Bryant, the Grizzlies do not have Shaquille O’Neal – all legendary individual players in their own right.

What the Grizzlies do have, which makes them one of the most endearing teams in the league, is a potential recipe for success that includes defensive tenacity from the Grindfather and his teammates. They demonstrate many of the key ingredients that make their current squad and the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons comparable, who were a quintessential model of total team play. Clutch plays down the stretch of games, constant defensive pressure and team camaraderie which reflects on the Grizzlies’ top defensive ranking in the league (95.6 opponent points per game). The 2003-04 Pistons shared the league lead in defensive rank with 84.3 opponent points per game.

In a Western Conference where a tough road to The Finals is guaranteed, Memphis has tough players in spades to stand the test. From clutch Mike Conley, to low-post bully Zach Randolph, to All-Star Marc Gasol, to gritty Tony Allen, this Grizzlies team is just that – a true team. A team made of a cast of lovable characters who are ready to take it to the next level.

One character in particular leaves no mystery about who he is – which is something any organization, basketball or otherwise, can appreciate. A player who comes into the arena every day ready to work, practice hard, elevate his teammates and leave everything he has on the court is special – and that’s who Tony Allen is. He is the model of “solid.”