Even though he was never the defensive player of the year, Tony Allen is widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Allen wasn’t the most skillful or psychically dominant player, but he often used his gritty playing style and defensive IQ to lock up the opposing team-best perimeter players. After all, three All First-Defensive and three All Second-Defensive team honors are no joke, as Allen had the ability to even guard players much taller than him with his 6’4″ frame.
He faced some great shooting guards and developed competitive rivalries in his time, especially with the great Kobe Bryant, who had great respect for Allen, naming him the toughest defender he ever went up against. Allen spoke on the Ryen Russillo podcast and paid his respect towards “The Mamba,” acknowledging he was very hard to stop, but he named one guy that gave him even more problems than Kobe.
“Although Kobe is cold, big respects to Kob, but I just think when I used to against my hometown coworker D-Wade at the time, I thought he was always trying to go at my head. And I thought it was my duty to try and stop him. Boy, was he tough. He gets to that line, he slashed, he wasn’t just your typical superstar where he just catches it in the post or catch it on the wing and just go to work. He used to pick and roll sometimes, he’d be in the offense. If he can’t get his shot going off the pull-up, back door cuts. You’ve got to be aware of a superstar staying this active, watching the offensive rebound, he might come tip dunk. I thought every time that I got a chance to play, he performed and it was difficult. I don’t know the numbers. But I know for a fact if I could look at the numbers for sure, Dwyane Wade, he used to give me fits man.”Tony Allen, The Ringer
Allen’s point of view is that even though Kobe was the better and more skillful player, at least you could anticipate and prepare easier for what he was going to do, especially later in his career when Allen played him. Kobe was more stationary, operating from the post or the catch rather than running circles around you and exhausting you. That gave you a chance to get your feet ready and give yourself a better shot at making the stop. With Wade, you never knew what he would do, as he was everywhere on the floor.
Wade’s career and legacy often get overshadowed and forgotten about, as he was always known as the second-best shooting guard next to Kobe, but there is a reason they called that man “The Flash.” Wade didn’t play like your typical superstar. He never developed a consistent jump shot but rather used his speed to get where he wanted on the court, slashed, operated in the mid-range, played off the ball, and worked hard on the defensive end. A superstar who played with a role player mindset, Wade was a menace to guard on the court, as even Tony Allen had to admit there was no one like him.