There were rumors of a simmering rivalry between Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo when they were teammates.
Tonight the world gets to see them battle in person and face-to-face at the FedEx Forum.
Mayo comes in ranked 9th in the league in scoring and 1st in the league in 3 point shooting percentage. Allen and the Grizzlies come in as the best defense in the league both in points allowed and defensive efficiency. It should be exciting to say the least as Mayo, the unstoppable scorer, comes home to face the unmovable defense of the Grizzlies.
But this story began a lot earlier.
O.J. Mayo was supposed to be the Superstar in Memphis. He may well become that in his career, but he never reached that level in Memphis. Traded for the rights to Kevin Love and longtime fan favorite Mike Miller, Mayo set the world on fire the first two months in Memphis, scoring at will and basically looking like a superstar. Then, the struggles set in.
The team wasn’t very good at that time, so teams focused on stopping Mayo. At just under 6-4, Mayo didn’t have the size to be a great SG, nor did he have the speed to handle the PG role. Basically, he was a “tweener.” Not exactly a PG and not exactly a SG either. No one questioned that Mayo could score. That was a given since his youth when Sports Illustrated did an article on him in 7th grade. The question was where to play Mayo that would allow him to score without putting him in a position that would allow opponents to score more.
For Lionel Hollins, that position was as 6th Man. That didn’t sit well with Mayo.
Tony Allen was the leading scorer in the old Southwest Conference as a senior at Oklahoma State. Allen was the first Cowboy to score 1000 points in a season and led OSU to the Final Four. Drafted by the Boston Celtics (whose GM was Chris Wallace at the time) with the 25th pick in the draft, Allen had a decent rookie season averaging 6.4 PPG and was selected to the Rookie Challenge during All-Star weekend.
Allen injured his knee twice in Boston and, after the Celtics traded for Ray Allen, seemed destined to be a career backup in the NBA. His defense was outstanding despite the injuries to his knee, but he couldn’t break into the rotation with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen ahead of him, so he decided to sign with Memphis before the 2008-09 season.
So, the stage was set. A fiery personality and a hot Superstar were destined to battle. It was only a matter of time.
Not many people expected it to be 30,000 feet in the air however. We don’t need to cover the fight over a card game debt in detail. Suffice it to say that things got out of hand. However, the fight did change things in a big way for Memphis.
Two weeks later on January 19th in Oklahoma City, ‘Grit and Grind’ became the mantra for the Grizzlies. Allen scored 19 points and played great defense on Kevin Durant in the game.
From that point on, Allen was the starter, Mayo was the bench scorer, and the debate raged on which player should be starting. That debate ended this past summer when Mayo signed with Dallas.
So tonight the two will face off against each other on the court. Both players know each other well after two seasons of practices. Two rivals facing each other for the first time in a real game and in front of basically a full house.
It should be a lot of fun to watch. Tickets are still available too!
Related story: O.J. Mayo ready to kick Memphis’ butt