I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline when I stumbled across an Adi Joseph piece for Sporting News that Tony Allen retweeted.
Allen was gifted a pair of Nike Kobe 11’s from Mr. Bryant himself, and on the shoe it read, “To Tony, the best defender I ever faced!”
— Tony Allen (@aa000G9) February 27, 2016
Bryant stated earlier in the season that Allen had always been the guy who had done the most commendable job of preventing him from asserting his will offensively. That prompted Joseph to discuss with Allen what made him the closest thing to a “Kobe-stopper.”
One thing I found to be interesting in the conversation between Joseph and Allen was Allen’s strong endorsement of perseverance. Allen preached the importance of wearing resilience as if it’s a badge of honor, especially against the one of the game’s greats.
SN: What do you do? What do you do against Kobe that other people aren’t doing?
Grizzlies teammate Courtney Lee, stretching behind us: Can’t give that secret away!
TA: Well, part of the battle is competing and never getting discouraged. Everything else is just, be prepared.
SN: Is there any sort of, I want him to take this —
TA: Nah, nah. He got too many attributes to his game for you to focus on trying to take away one thing. So like I say, just don’t get discouraged.
To hear Allen say this is the sweetest serenade to my ears. This is a message I reiterate to everyone, old and young, when playing basketball.
Here’s one thing that’s important to understand, superior offense is going to trump picture-perfect defense more often than not. With Kobe Bryant as my favorite player, this has been exemplified on numerous occasions. It’s important to note that some of the guys that had the most success in slowing down Bryant, Allen, Shane Battier, etc., never allowed their confidence to waiver when Bryant did the unimaginable.
If you want to be a stopper at any level of basketball, this is a mindset that needs to be adopted. Whether you get embarrassed, or play disciplined defense that forces the opposition into a tough shot and they still connect, don’t change your approach. Just make them work.
Continue to compete and become somewhat of a tactician on that end of the ball. Develop some tendencies. Let something become your mantra.
Reach selectively, bump subtly, tug-and-pull ever so slightly to become an irritant to your opponent. Let them know you won’t cower away no matter what the scenario. Great offensive players make their presence known by racking up buckets in impressive fashion. As a top-flight defender, it’s important to carve out your reputation by asserting yourself in your domain.
Take a look at Kawhi Leonard, the NBA’s best defender. There have been times where he’s been bested by the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden, but those moments never linger in his mind endlessly. A great defender focuses on the next play and how they can come away from the victor when placed in that situation yet again. That’s exactly what Leonard does.
Leonard is a hard-working, active and attentive defender who benefits from a sharp and focused mind as well as an ideal stature. His hands are huge, arms are long, feet are quick and he’s a fantastic athlete.
Many don’t have these attributes. It’s important to compensate and make sure you study your opponent. You need a devise a plan and adhere to it. Become that lynchpin your team can rely on and give your best effort. Live with the results, and if things go correctly it could tilt the game in your teams favor.
Some may view it as an exercise in futility to try and go head up with some of the best when they’re on a roll. It serves as an indicator to them that you’re a competitor and will not going to back down when it gets tough. A great defender needs to be able to take a punch.
Trying to completely deny greatness is tough. You can hope to contain it from reaching the level that would automatically spell doom by following some of these tips. Tony Allen stuck to the script and not only won many battles against Bryant, but was awarded the respect and admiration of one of the greatest players of all-time. That goes a long way for Mr. First Team All-Defense, and it can for you too.