Grayson Allen is exactly what this college basketball season needs to try and solve the biggest issue that it faces until March- apathy.
Most people don’t really check in on college hoops until late winter, early spring, so a lightning rod is needed to get people excited.
Enter Grayson Allen, who is absolutely perfect for this role in every sense imaginable. If you are Duke fan, you should LOVE him. He is everything you can want in a player on your side. If you’re a fan of any other team, you should HATE him- that’s normal and healthy.
If Allen decided to capitalize on the graduate student transfer rule and play for another team next season, Duke fans would hate him, and thus perfectly encapsulate Jerry Seinfeld’s “in sports you’re basically rooting for clothes” routine.
In many movies, the villains are just more enviable, and that makes them (at least subconsciously) more respectable and certainly more interesting (call it the “Spaceballs” Principle). You know all those films where the bad guy has the nicer house, faster cars and more attractive eye candy in his or her midst?
Allen is the real-life version of that, and we saw that in full display at the Champions Classic Tuesday night. He was in 100% super villain, dominating all comers mode, as he dropped a career high 37 points on the #2 Michigan State Spartans. He was also his usual histrionic self, consistently flopping worse than the most egregiously diving soccer/football/futbol player in the entire world.
If you didn’t have some kind of reaction to that performance, which saw Allen finish 11-20 from the field, 7-11 from three point range in an 88-81 victory for the nation’s top ranked team, then you must be trippin’.
“I felt like I was hot from three,” Allen said in the postgame news conference (“you were hot,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski added).
“When I get a few open looks, the basket gets bigger.”
Coach K also added that he felt like he was coaching J.J. Redick that night “He was fantastic, not good, but fantastic, c’mon.”
“It’s a high to be loathed,” C. Montgomery Burns, super-villain of The Simpsons, once sang.
Mr. Burns’ catchy tune extols the good in being bad, explaining how he gets drunk on boos. It somewhat applies here, to the former McDonald’s All-American and Ted Cruz doppelganger shooting guard. There’s so much at work here that makes Grayson so easily loathable:
he’s known for tripping opponents, flopping, looks like a young version of one of our nation’s most unlikable politicians, he has a controversial individual history that may or may not make him a character concern come NBA Draft time and he’s been a major player in college hoops for four years now.
Don’t underestimate this factor because these days, so few elite stars at the level of Grayson Allen stay for even three years, let alone four. That makes the guys who do seem like they have been there “forever” and that definitely polarizes and annoys people.
Call it the Perry Ellis/Aaron Craft rule. When that player is on Duke, this only gets magnified and amplified in multiple. That’s because Duke basketball coverage consistently draws way more eyeballs than any other team. It’s actually an absurd multiple, and it almost always rings true, I can show you the numbers. So it’s an escapable feedback loop going on here. A lot of people are sick of Duke, but more people are supporting, hating or feel conflicted towards the Blue Devils.
Thus, you get more Duke in your media diet, because the news industry is a business and thus needs a consistent audience to survive. It would be great if it was a non-profit initiative, independent of worries about moving the needle, but alas that’s not the world we live in.
So no matter what you think and feel about Grayson Allen, the fact that you do feel and think something about him, usually strongly, is great for everyone involved with not just Duke but college hoops at large.
He’s today’s version of everything that was spelled out in the greatest 30 for 30 film of all time, “I hate Christian Laettner.” He’s Laettner for this generation, and because of that, all eyes will be on him whenever he plays.
Because as Mr. Burns sang: “the room is full of gentlemen, but they’ve paid to see the cad.”
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