The Memphis Grizzlies announced plans to eventually retire the number of Tony Allen, who departed this summer as a free agent and signed with the New Orleans Pelicans.
The franchise announced similar plans this summer for fellow Grit ‘n’ Grind mainstay Zach Randolph, who signed with the Sacramento Kings in free agency.
“Tony was a driving force behind the Grizzlies’ seven straight playoff appearances and he remains a beloved member of the Memphis community,” Grizzlies owner Robert Pera said in a statement. “Tony played with a level of passion that is unrivaled. He helped establish a Grizzlies culture focused on toughness and effort, and he challenged every player that put on Beale Street Blue to match his fiery intensity.
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank him for his incredible contributions to the Grizzlies and the unique way that he inspired the city of Memphis. We are proud that the Grindfather’s #9 jersey will hang in the rafters of FedExForum alongside Zach’s one day.”
Randolph and Allen, who made up Memphis’ “Core Four” along with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, both had expressed a strong desire to stay in Memphis. However, sources said the Grizzlies never made an offer to either player in free agency this summer. Allen signed a one-year deal with the Pelicans for the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million.
Allen, known as “The Grindfather” in Memphis, will return to the FedEx Forum on Friday for the preseason finale and Wednesday for the regular-season opener.
Allen, who birthed the Grit ‘n’ Grind motto with his comments in an emotional postgame TV interview, averaged 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game during his seven seasons with the Grizzlies. He also established himself as one of the NBA’s most tenacious defenders, earning first- or second-team All-Defensive honors in six of those seasons. He might be best remembered in Memphis for his tough style and raw, engaging personality.
“Tony will forever be one of the Core Four responsible for the turnaround in the Memphis Grizzlies’ fortunes and our surge in popularity,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in the statement. “There would never have been seven straight years of playoff appearances, the incredible electricity in FedExForum for home games, ‘Grit and Grind’ and ‘Believe Memphis’ without Tony Allen’s contributions to the team. In the process Tony became more than just one of the toughest defenders in the league — he became a true cult hero who was intertwined with the soul of Memphis like few athletes ever have in any city. Tony and his family will be missed but his impact on the Grizzlies and Memphis will never be forgotten.”