Tony Allen is considered one of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history, who made a name for himself by making it extremely hard for other great players to score. Numerous all-time greats like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and others always mentioned Tony Allen’s name when asked about the greatest defensive stopper they’ve come across during their time in the league.
One of the things that made Allen an all-time great defensive specialist is his high basketball IQ but on top of that, his obsessive interest to learn everything he can about the players he is guarding that game. He watched many game films to understand the go-to moves and habits opposing players have in their repertoire.
According to JJ Redick, Allen was one of the first players in the NBA that instilled fear in some specific way. Mike Conley Jr. was also on the podcast saying Allen has a particular way of doing certain things, and that is one of the reasons he is recognized around the league as a great defensive player.
Redick remembered a game from the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals in which Orlando Magic played the Boston Celtics. Allen was standing right next to Redick and started loudly breathing into his ear, trying to get him out of the game.
We played the Celtics in the 2010 conference finals, and they beat us 4-2. I don’t remember what game it was, but I had a couple of good games early in the series. I go to check in to a game, and it was a free throw. I go, and I line up for the free throw; I’m standing behind a three-point arc. Tony was in the game, and he comes over, walks over me turns into my ear, and starts breathing loudly as a human could breathe. I’m not scared of people on the court, but I’m like is this dude trying to get into my head.JJ Redick, via The Old Man and The Three
Tony Allen had the tenacity only a handful of players could match, and that is one segment of his game that doesn’t get enough recognition. Being named 3- time NBA All-Defensive First Team and 3-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team speaks volumes for itself. He used every means necessary to throw his opponent out of his comfort zone, either through playing hard physical defense or just playing mind games, as he did in this story with Redick.