March Madness is here. You have seen it already, the happenings foretold in prophecy: men, women, and children, wandering the streets, eyes wild and hands covered in animal blood. These lost beings, who once were people, burn the jerseys of their opponents. They descend en masse, like a humanity goo, upon high end grocery stores with pipes and chains, pillaging like barbarian hordes of old.They take all the cakes, pies, breads, biscuits, bagels, and buns to the river. They throw them in as a sacrifice to Basketor, the God of College Basketball. It is primal.
Horrifying. I will not look upon this terror. The only refuge is in the tight embrace of the NBA's warm arms. We will proceed. Let us proceed.
I am a serious enough sports critic to hedge against calling this "The Greatest Highlight Mix of All Time." That's just not true. Hakeem embarrassing Robinson, Rondo roasting the Heat, The McGrady game, Rashad Vaughn scoring 10 points. Countless iconic moments, explosions of production at the most critical points of famous games, cannot seriously be set aside in favor of this video of Tony Allen, after having been abandoned by nearly every decent player on his team, stepping up for no rational reason man can divine to beat the East-leading but still fairly tragic Cleveland Cavaliers pretty much by himself.
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And yet, I watch, and I have a hard time imagining any highlight mix that could conceivably give a viewer more pleasure. Every possession in which Tony Allen touches the ball is a heroic arc conceived by Joseph Campbell.
Catching the ball is the call to adventure. The first dribble is the revelatory abyss: a gnarled monster coiled around a skyscraper, tearing people out of their offices and devouring them as frightened onlookers weep and scream: "Maybe Tony shouldn't handle the ball. It doesn't look like anything I recognize as basketball."
Often, these terrified civilians are right—the building collapses, blood everywhere, ball rolling away, offensive possession decidedly over. But sometimes, for a tiny little sliver of time, amid a beautiful light, the monster transforms, coughs up the people it had devoured, and quickly replaces and cleans all the windows on the building. It is a Gift of Goodness that is worth two points, and redeems the monster in the eyes of the people.
In this video alone, we are treated to adventures the likes of which we can hardly comprehend. Allen dunks on JR Smith on the break. He forces turnovers from Kevin Love and knocks dudes away from the basket with pure spiritual force. Tony recovers an irreparably broken play, two dudes haplessly passing back and forth in the key, by improvising a quick post up move on Timofey Mozgov. He scores and draws a foul on Iman Shumpert on the break, lets out a resounding "AND-ONE," and is turned for a second into a bizarre, alternate universe James Harden. He loudly complains about a no-call on Kyrie Irving, because his temporary manifestation into superstardom was supposed to come with perks. And he nails two floaters in the lane, Tony's pure, cube-steak essence colliding with the finest and most delicate of all basketball wrist flips, like steak tartare made tableside. He also hounds LeBron on a front, but he was going to do that anyway.
Also Allen makes a three pointer from the wing. His shooting form itself is an adventure:
Allen warms up pregame with that exact hitch, drilling shot after shot with a .2 second airborne freeze. It's mesmerizing, like watching a thousand newspapers run off a hot press with the words "TEST PRINTING" blocked across the front of the page. It's a glorious efficiency of repeated errors.
But I've been avoiding a hard truth. The deterioration of time and modernizing of tactics are making Tony more and more marginal by the day. The intelligentsia decry this great and glorious player, the one dude who REALLY accepted Defense Wins Championships into the deepest parts of his heart. A lifetime of extremely stiff defense and Grade A on- and off-court eccentricity has been abandoned to the wastes of basketball history, left to decompose with the rest of the marginal and the forgotten. It stinks.
There are two players I've seen in person who wholly and completely convinced me of their wholesale genius in spite of their NBA Limitations. The second is Jamal Crawford. The first is implied by context.
Tony never stops moving on the court, ever. He claps and yells and waves a towel on the sidelines, rarely sitting down. He blows up screens like they're made of paper; watching him put Damian Lillard in a box in last year's playoffs was remarkable. After a particularly stout defensive stand, Tony will do an entire celebration in the backcourt, the life and death of a brief exquisite joy, pried from its creator and experiencer after a mere half-court defensive stop, on display for anyone who was smart enough to ignore the Grizzlies meandering to the front court to set up a slow moving high post play.
But once in awhile, the camera captures it. Once, he did this:
Friends, I am willing to concede that Tony Allen isn't what he used to be and his skillset isn't valued by mainstream society as it once was. But there's something about the Futuristic flippancy with which people are looking at the end of his glorious, First Team-All Defense reign that aggravates me.
Watching Tony Allen was, and, on a bizarre occasion, is, completely fucking captivating in a way that is reserved for epoch-defining Hall of Famers. Tony probably won't join their ranks, even if he is the best defensive wing of his generation, but he should be remembered like those dudes, and his slow passing into the night should be seen as a tragedy on level with the inevitability of our own deaths. Watch this highlight mix, confront the pure truth of Tony's game, tell your children—no, tell all children—about what you've seen.
The other day I was vibing with some internet pals on Twitter.com, and one of them posted this:
Just Ted Cruz sitting courtside at a Rockets game, indulging in the pastime of the common man: enjoying some sport, responsibly drinking four light beers so as to keep the gut at bay. Ted gets it! Smiling and having a good time, totally likable. We are ALL likable, here, together, in this building, rooting on the beloved institution called the Houston Rockets. This experience of communal joy is very much unlike other rooms I have been in, Cruz's thumbs-up says, rooms where people are either mad at me to the point of nearly crying, or cheering when I say something mean.
I also enjoy that young man with the beard, Cruz continues. I will celebrate his latest accomplishment, which was dribbling the ball into the lane and getting fouled by another player, one without a beard on the other team. I think, even though everyone around me is clapping, I will give this celebration an individualist touch, and send a hearty thumbs-up in his direction. I can't clap like everyone else! I am special and different, which is why I treat every other living human besides those more powerful than me like trash. If I clap like these other goons, will get lost in the shuffle, and that's not acceptable under any circumstance!
When I'm president, everyone will have to cheer for me, like they are cheering for The BeardBoy—this is my nickname for the fouled basketball guy—who I assume is beloved everywhere, by all people, who enjoy basketball. Which I also do, for sure.
Also why is the shot clock 24 seconds? Isn't it supposed to be 35? Should I talk to someone about this? Is the game all messed up? I've been noticing that they aren't spending the first 15 seconds of the possessions idly passing the ball around the perimeter to kill time and expose tiny cracks from which the offense can attack. Isn't that how basketball is supposed to work? That seems like how it should work.
Furthermore, what's going on with my neck? Did I tuck the collar of my shirt under this shirt the team provided and it's making a weird triangular hump? Or did my lizard gills open up while I wasn't looking? Try really hard not to call attention to it, Ted. No one can know you're a lizard man, outside of the other LizardMen I know. None of them control the world, because they are also widely disliked, and they are REALLY banking on me becoming president or at least like Secretary of the Interior so we can really get a foothold. Anyway, great play! I approve!
Chris putting the cross on a dude who is shorter than him and bravely playing through a lost shoe is maybe the most cynical thing I've ever seen on a basketball court. I admire Paul's devotion to the Sinful Gods of unfair play, even if I don't worship those gods myself. I feel that all people should find what they believe in, embrace it, and let it take them as far as it can go. If Chris Paul, deeply and truly, believes in living a life where Nut Punching is acceptable, nay, central, to his Basketball Morals, then I will not stand here in puritan judgement. He must go his own way.
That doesn't mean I accept it, or will promote his work in this space. We here at Reel Talk are deeply troubled by Chris Paul's actions in this clip, and even though he put some nice English on that finish, we cannot award this highlight a passing grade.
Thanks for reading! We will be writing about highlights from THE TOURNAMENT next week, so, please, send your favorites our way!