It’s a cliche opinion, but it still rings extremely true in the final stretch of the year. In the past week alone, we’ve seen more Grayson Allen shenanigans and the confirmed extension of the neverending war between UNC and the NCAA. It’s a bad time.
It’s year-end list season, and instead of compiling the best moments of 2016, we here at SportsChannel 8 have decided to recap the worst to fully capture how the past 12 months have ravaged our beloved sports teams. It’s like a trip down memory lane, but if the trip included I-40 traffic at 5:15 p.m. on Friday and the memories were those of getting an itchy sweater in that Christmas present you swore would be a Nintendo 64.
Without further ado (and in no particular order), here is the third installment of our eight worst North Carolina sports moments of 2016.
6. Grayson Allen Can’t Stop Tripping People
Grayson Allen is a really, really good basketball player.
As a current UNC student, that pains me to admit. But I’m also a semi-rational person with a decent grip on sports (editor’s note: debatable), and I can acknowledge that Allen is among the best college basketball has to offer.
All of this makes the fact that he physically cannot restrain himself from tripping opposing players so damn frustrating.
We’re fresh off a week of every conceivable take about this by now. Allen is just hypercompetitive. He’s a dirty player. He needs to cut it out. He’s the white supervillain Duke has sorely missed since J.J. Redick.
All of these points are true in some way, and for Duke fans across the state, that’s a problem. Believe me, I know how it feels to be on the defensive about a narrative revolving around CHEATING AND GETTING BANNED FOR CHEATING.
But let’s go back to the start of this saga and see how we got where we are today.
The narrative started on February 8th, when the Louisville Cardinals made the trek to Cameron Indoor against a rare unranked Duke team. The Blue Devils desperately needed a marquee win after a miserable January, and the banned-from-postseason Cards provided just that opportunity.
Duke took an early lead and appeared poised to run away with the game early in the second half, building a 15-point lead around the first media timeout. Then, fate reared it’s ugly head (or foot) in.
This foul was the basketball equivalent of a president tweeting about increased nuclear arms casually a few days before Christmas. Total chaos was on the horizon, and the world finally got the moment it clamored for since Allen committed to Mike Krzyzewski in high school.
It’s such a perfect moment. Allen misses the layup, gets frustrated, and does a really stupid and careless thing. LOOK AT THE ENTITLED BRAT MAD HE COULDN’T SCORE THE LAYUP!!!
Allen going full Cobra Kai put himself on the hot seat, and he had to know his play would be under a microscope for the foreseeable future. (Duke won that game, by the way.)
It only took Allen roughly three weeks to completely forget that against Florida State.
Duke just needed to dribble the clock out in the waning seconds of an 80-65 victory over the Seminoles. Seriously, just hang onto the ball, avoid the team as much as humanly possible, and take the W.
That’s not a remotely natural human movement to do anything but trip a guy. The game is over. You win. DON’T DO THAT.
If the Louisville trip was what sparked Allen’s villain status, this trip was dousing his national reputation in gasoline and taking a blowtorch to it. You just can’t do that.
This, in my totally-as-esteemed-and-legitimate-coaching-opinion-as-Coach-K, is where some kind of punishment would have sufficed. Even sitting Allen one half would have sent a no-tolerance message for this behavior. But, Coach Krzyzewski is a Leader Of Men first, so the team continues without disciplinary action. Amazing.
The ACC did that thing where it pretended to step in but not really and formally reprimanded the star guard. SWOFFORD!
In March, Duke played Yale in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite my pleas to let each team debate who was less hatable to advance, they played a basketball game, and Allen once again found himself in the court of public opinion.
This, by all means, does not look anything like an intentional trip. But, because he got caught with his foot in the ankle jar too many times before, fans couldn’t help but wonder if Allen made yet another dirty play (he didn’t this time).
Allen played in Duke’s Sweet 16 game against Oregon, where the only bad thing he did was refuse to dap up an aggressive Dillon Brooks immediately after the buzzer sounded. Come on, Grayson. You’re a better player than that.
In the offseason, fellow perennial on-the-edge player Draymond Green took the heat off Allen by kicking literally every single NBA player in the balls, establishing himself as Basketball Chyna. Allen, for the moment, was safe. He wasn’t the most hatable basketball player on the planet anymore.
Allen managed to keep it clean for the first month of the season (aside from the routine head snaps on every drive but I DIGRESS), but on December 18th, he emerged yet again as Classic Duke Villain Guy with an egregious flop against Tennessee State.
We’ve already tried to #8splain this before, but come on. That’s a flop. That’s a decent sized fine in the NBA, and Allen has already lost any sense of nuance in these debates based on the past calendar year.
Then came the big one.
After fighting criticisms for how he handled it, Coach Krzyzewski finally pulled the trigger and suspended Allen indefinitely the next day.
My not-professionally-formed opinion is that Allen truly is a good guy. That’s something that not a lot of people want to admit because they want to believe what they see on the court is a true representation of who a person is. But I really think Allen isn’t Satan himself (his coach? TBD), but still a dirty player.
I don’t think Allen wants to play the role of “bad guy” at all, but his style of play (and choice of school) lends itself to being just that. You can see the frustration boiling over in that Vine.
Or maybe it’s a temper tantrum and he’s everything Duke haters wanted him to be crafted by science itself to infuriate good people across America. Either way.
The tripping has frustrated just about everybody surrounding Duke basketball. Duke fans are sick of having to cape up for Allen every time he does it. Coach K is put in a bad spot because it’s tough to balance being the mightiest leader of young men to ever lead while refusing to discipline your star player. Teammates appear frustrated by it (look at Jayson Tatum on that first replay of the Elon trip). In the Duke camp, nobody wins here.
Meanwhile, as much fun as it is to poke fun at Allen (and believe me, it’s a LOT of fun), he still strikes fear into my heart, and hearts of the quality and rational people that dislike Duke across the world, every time he does something impossible like this:
Which makes it all the more frustrating when he pulls shenanigans like tripping other players.
Maybe 2017 will be a lesson-learning year for all involved– until Allen starts RKOing opponents out of nowhere.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment in the Bottom 8 North Carolina Sports Moments in 2016.