Sports

We Failed Grayson Allen by Not Hating Him More

Grayson Allen of Duke high-fives fans after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels on Feb. 9, 2017, in Durham, North Carolina.
Are we really just going to let this slide?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

At some point over the next few weeks, Grayson Allen will finally end his college basketball career. The Duke senior will go down as an all-time great Blue Devil, yet he remains a relatively divisive character. This is a shame. Allen should be a resoundingly divisive character.

Sure, there’s chatter on ESPN and Twitter every time Allen trips an opponent, but we routinely go weeks without working up our collective bile over the feisty guard. Perhaps the issue is that college basketball is declining in popularity. Or maybe we’ve found more important things to worry about, although I can’t personally think of any matters of more pressing interest. Anyhow, it would be a shame to let a wonderful Duke villain go to waste. In fact, we’re doing Allen a disservice by not hating him more.

Generations of Duke standouts have catapulted to stardom by playing the bad guys. It’s a win-win situation. We get to hate them, and they get to enhance their profiles by becoming heels. Christian Laettner made the goddamn Dream Team, for crying out loud.

But we don’t put Allen in the same class as Laettner or J.J. Redick. Hell, we don’t even treat him like Greg Paulus. I am guilty of this. When Allen hip-checked a UNC player during the ACC tournament last week, I didn’t think it was that disgraceful. I even went so far as writing a piece arguing that its dirtiness was subjective. What has happened to me?

Allen is an archetypal Dukie, and we have but one month to appreciate his work. Before it’s too late, let’s take the time to acknowledge all the reasons why we are blessed to have and to hate Grayson Allen.

He is good.

Hating a bad player is both cruel and a waste of time. Thankfully, Allen is rather talented. He famously came off the bench as a freshman in the 2015 title game and led his team to victory. It was a thunderous coming-out party, one in which he scored eight straight points to rescue the Blue Devils.

When he’s at his best, Allen is a pasty ball of feverish intensity. He throws himself across the floor, careens into contact at the rim, and screams to the heavens after drawing charges. In the 2015 title game, he brought a brand of energy that hadn’t been seen since circa-1986 Robin Williams. He looked like he was simultaneously passing a kidney stone and winning the lottery. It was all brilliantly hatable.

Over the past two years, however, Allen has seemed to disengage from this manic mode when things aren’t going great. This newfound mellowness is a departure from his hatable Duke forbearers. Laettner and Bobby Hurley tucked themselves into bed at night while screaming in low defensive crouches. Steve Wojciechowski had his indoor voice surgically removed.

A passive Grayson Allen is a Grayson Allen not worth hating, so it’s imperative that he plays well throughout the tournament. Ideally, he will cover himself in floor burns on the way to scoring 30 points against your favorite team. You won’t need instructions on how to hate him after that.

He trips people.

On Allen’s Wikipedia page, there are two sections in the area dedicated to his college career. One is a table of statistics. The other is titled “Tripping incidents.”

Allen trips and elbows and hip-checks opponents. It’s his thing. There’s a Grayson Allen tripping parody Twitter account. Grayson Allen tripping T-shirts sparked a legal battle. Last season, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended Allen indefinitely because he couldn’t stop tripping folks. (Allen wound up serving just a one-game suspension.)

Is it fair to distill an entire four-year college career into a single regrettable character trait? When you trip as many guys as Allen has tripped, it probably is.

He apologizes for tripping people.

After Allen tripped Elon’s Steven Santa Ana in 2017—the incident that earned him his suspension—Allen gave a teary-eyed apology to reporters at his locker. “I made a really bad play,” he said. “I’m sorry to him, Santa Ana. I’m sorry to the official that had to call that. I’m sorry to the whole team. It was selfish it took away from them. I’m not proud of it.”

Again, this is a departure from the Duke villains of yore. It took more than two decades for Laettner to say he was sorry for stomping on the chest of Kentucky’s Aminu Timberlake, and even then it didn’t seem 100 percent sincere.

Allen, meanwhile, has tried to rehabilitate his image rather than lean into the dark side. It’s an interesting, if counter-productive, strategy. Take, for instance, this anecdote from a recent USA Today profile on Allen, about a visit to a cell phone store.

On Allen’s way out the door, a manager yelled, “Don’t trip on your way out!” Allen stopped, pulled out his phone, and dialed Sherry. He told her what happened, then put her on speaker so she could hear what he said next. 

He approached the manager. “Was that the right thing to say?” Allen asked. Embarrassed by his actions, the manager started to apologize profusely. Allen stopped him.

 “I’m sorry for what I did, too,” he said. “I’m gonna forgive you, because that’s what we should all do for each other.” Then he stuck his hand out. “I’m Grayson Allen, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

Imagine Allen approaching you and saying that. I’d much rather he trip me.

He looks like Ted Cruz:

Charming.

His nickname is G-Money.

According to a Sports Illustrated story from 2015, Allen’s fellow freshmen gave him the sobriquet. However, I can’t find any evidence beyond that article of Allen going by G-Money. And besides, he can’t reasonably be held responsible for a nickname that was bestowed upon him by others. See, I’m doing it again. Would I have let Shane Battier get away with being called Shane-zilla? Of course not. Yet here I am, defending G-Money.

I must do better. This March, I will do better. Do your worst, Grayson. I’ll be ready.