Off the Court: Pelicans guard/forward Tony Allen

by Jim Eichenhofer

Like his All-Star teammate Anthony Davis, New Orleans free-agent signee Tony Allen is a Chicago native. The decorated defensive stopper describes his arrival in the Crescent City as somewhat of a rebirth for him in his basketball career, a perspective that impacted how he selected the number he will sport on his Pelicans jersey in 2017-18. The 35-year-old sat down with recently to discuss that decision, as well as various other topics as he enters Year 1 with a new NBA team:

Best moment as an athlete: “Being part of a championship team in Boston. Seeing the groundwork, seeing how first-class organizations cater to their players. It’s only right that in return, those guys go out and give you 110 percent. It’s like a marriage. Me seeing that and actually winning a championship was my greatest moment, and obviously pouring the champagne on each other after doing it.” [smiles]

How he chose his current uniform number of 24: “When I went to Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois, I wore 24. I just wanted to take it back to those days, when I was just so happy. Not saying I wasn’t happy the other years since then, but I was free back then. I didn’t have any worries, no bills, no kids. Coming into this situation, I want to get that feeling again. Not to where I don’t have bills – those are never going away. [laughs] But just that mindset that I had in a whole new situation. I want to embrace it.”

Hidden talent: “I’m a good DJ. If there is a crowd of people, I can play some music and just get everybody in a groove.” [smiles] I do that a lot if I’m at the barbecue with my family, or just have a lot of friends over, or if my wife is having company I’ll play some R&B, some type of jazz, just to set the mood and relax.”

Favorite thing about New Orleans: “The warm weather, the food. I’ve been tearing them oysters up. [smiles] It’s a laidback city, not too flashy like your New Yorks or Los Angeleses. Just good Southern folk. I like being around them.”

Pregame ritual: “I’m going to the bathroom before the game, because I’ve got to feel light. [laughs] I’m taking a shower. I’m going to eat some fruit, preferably blueberries. Then, always get a good stretch in, 45 minutes before the game.”

First job: “I had a summer job as a teenager working in the kitchen for the Chicago Housing Authority. I took food that was already made, put it in the oven, set a timer, put it on a tray and served it, with milk and fruit. My mother worked for the Housing Authority and got me that job. After that, I said I’ll never work (a real job) again. [smiles] I didn’t like it. I wanted to be an athlete all the way since I was young.”

Favorite athlete as a kid: “Michael Jordan. Every game in Chicago we watched the Bulls play. Then my friends and I would go outside and play on the Juwan Howard Court. Juwan Howard was a guy who was from the same area as me and got to the NBA first before me (in the 1990s). He was my motivation. By seeing Juwan Howard go, I was like, ‘There is a way out.’ ”

Closest friends playing on other NBA teams: “Obviously Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Zach Randolph, guys like Lester Hudson.”

Favorite type of music: “Hip-hop, R&B. If it’s a long flight from coast-to-coast, I might go with jazz.”

Favorite TV shows: “Definitely Martin, all the mob series. Right now, 50 Cent has a good show out called Power. Whatever’s hot I’m going to watch it.”

Favorite phone apps: “I like the Snapchat feature with the emojis, where you can move them around.”