STILLWATER — He was on the basketball court, so, naturally, Tony Allen couldn't help himself.
Lathered in sweat, the Memphis Grizzlies' defensive savant was going hard, grit and grind as he calls it, blocking 10-year-olds and posting up 12-year-olds.
One kid, who dared attempt to cross up Allen at his own basketball camp — this the first ever in Stillwater — had his pocket picked in a drill, with a playful Allen trash-talking him immediately after the steal: “First-Team All-D, baby, First-Team All-D.”
“I'm actually catching my breath, because one of the kids was pretty good,” Allen admitted after a spirited 3-on-3 game. “Any time I get on the hardwood, I'm competing 110 percent. I even fouled a kid today. That was a little rough, but I got to win.”
The comments were lighthearted, as were the plays.
But Allen's ultracompetitive nature, in all situations, can't be masked in any environment. It's too ingrained in his personality and vital to his craft.
And now, because of that relentless energy and work ethic, particularly on the defensive end, he returns for a week in his college town as a mature, wealthy and respected man, the perfect success story for local campers to model after.
He's 31 and settled, at the perfect place in his career, recently signed to a four-year, $20 million extension with the Grizzlies.
It was a well-earned payday that comes on the heels of his second consecutive All-Defensive First Team nod, an award he gladly gloats about.
“Been a long time coming,” Allen said. “I felt my first six years in the league, I played behind Paul Pierce. I wasn't really able to let the world see my attributes that I bring to the table. But I've just been working and now I'm in a great situation, as far as my team, as far as my contract, my life and all I could do now is eat, sleep and work on defense. So it's fun to me, any time I get an award like that.”
And it's that highly respected defense that's made him so effective and important against the Thunder, playing the role of pest in one of the Western Conference's budding rivalries.
On a rotating basis, Allen consistently hounds Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, dating back to that wild seven-game series in the 2011 playoffs.
“Just look at what they got on the table: Westbrook and Durant,” Allen said when assessing the Thunder. “That's two of the better athletes in the game today. I was looking at that team when I first came to Memphis, like that's the team we need to mimic ourselves like.”
But last season, with Westbrook out, Memphis was able to burst by the Thunder, depositing them easily in the semifinals.
In the series, Allen helped limit Durant, who had little offensive help, to 42 percent shooting, including a 5-for-21 showing in the closeout game.
And that wasn't lost on some of the local campers turned Thunder fans on Wednesday afternoon, who jeered their OSU hero-turned-NBA villain.
“They were all talking about it. You see some in here with KD shoes,” Allen said. “But for the most part, it's a rivalry that started maybe three years ago and I'm just happy and grateful to be a part of it and be able to compete with those great players that they have.”