Tony Allen on Kobe Bryant: « I wish I could have been a friend […] He was my Michael Jordan »

Officially hired to the staff (player development) of the Memphis Hustle (Grizzlies’ G-League affiliate) in January, Tony Allen also served as a mentor to Josh Jackson before his return to the league in mid-January after 27 G-League games. Since late February, he’s also been an ambassador for the franchise – like Zach Randolph – for which he defended hard from 2010 to 2017.


« I think I’ve found my calling. I thank the organization for giving me the opportunity to show up, to be in contact and interact with the fans from my past experiences, to be at the games, invested in the community. I’ve done a lot of work as a Grizzlies player, on and off the court, so when they needed me to help out, it was an opportunity that was very close to my heart.

[…] I’m approaching this the same way I approached my rookie contract (he was the 24th pick in the 2004 draft). I wasn’t drafted as high as I had hoped, so I didn’t have as much money as I would have liked coming into the NBA. But I worked my way up, became a star and signed a big contract. That’s how I want to approach this job. I want to show that I can grow in the help I give. Every year I can be creative in how I help the organization. I’m behind her in what she’s building no matter what, 110 percent. » Tony Allen

Several times in his interview with The Athletic, Allen referenced Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26. In 2016 during his final NBA season, the future Hall of Famer gave Allen his shoes after a game, and wrote on them, « To Tony, the best defender I’ve ever faced. »

« When you hear that, you don’t believe it at first. He was my Michael Jordan, the closest thing to it. It was a tragedy. How do you talk about that? It was hard. He lost his daughter. That was hard. The whole situation, it just melts my heart. » Tony Allen

The two had faced each other in the 2008 and 2010 Finals, when Allen played for the Celtics. In 10 playoff games against him, the former Laker averaged 26.4 points per game, but only 38.7% shooting.

« I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk with him, to be a friend. I wish I would have known what he was thinking in 2008 when we beat him or in 2010 when they beat us. Which Tony Allen of the two was the better defender in his opinion? Discussing our battles. It’s not good for basketball, it hurt a lot of people and it was a tragedy. It’s hard, just hard. » Tony Allen.

via The Athletic


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