Earlier this week, it was announced that sophomore shooting guard Grayson Allen would be returning to the Duke Blue Devils for his junior season. Widely considered a first-round talent, Allen surprised many with his announcement, especially considering he didn’t even take advantage of the new NBA Draft rule that allows early entrants into the draft to participate in the NBA Combine before deciding whether or not to remain in the draft field.
Naturally, Allen’s decision to return to school was met with groans from a plethora of college basketball fans, as the whiny, bratty, trip-happy Dookie who everyone loves to hate will be around to get under their skin for another year. Of course, he could go to the NBA and still be at least somewhat relevant, but he wouldn’t be as visible as he is at Duke. The vast majority of the Blue Devils’ games are nationally televised, and Allen is a key player, meaning college basketball fans are forced to watch him gripe and cry and flop like a fish on a regular basis. Not to mention, his return makes the Blue Devils heavy national championship favorites for next season, and you know how everybody and their brother loves to drink that Duke Haterade. Two national titles in three years would not sit well with the Duke haters.
But the haters are wrong for being upset about Allen’s return. In fact, the haters are downright masochistic. Allow me to explain. If you’re a hater, what do you love to do more than anything? That’s right. Hate. And if you’re a Duke hater in particular, what do you love to do more than anything? Not just hate the team in general. But hate those pasty, bratty, geeky, sniveling, Coach K brown-nosing white boys that Duke has always seemed to boast under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. First, there was Jay Bilas, who, interestingly enough, is actually more annoying as an announcer than as a player. Then, there was Danny Ferry, who, interestingly enough, was forced to resign from a general manager position for making racist remarks concerning a fellow Dookie. Next, there was the most hated man in America in the early ’90s, Christian Laettner. At that same time, there was also Laettner’s whimpering sidekick (and Bart Simpson lookalike), Bobby Hurley. And the trend continued from there. Chris Collins, Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer and many, many more.
However, it’s been awhile since Duke had one of those guys. There were a handful that kind of fit the mold (Kyle Singler, Ryan Kelly and the Plumlee brothers), but they fell short of being completely insufferable. Really, Scheyer, who graduated in 2010 and now serves as an assistant coach under Coach K, was the last of the irritating pasty boys at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But, this past season, Allen became a new member of the much-maligned group and, thus, rejuvenated the Duke haters. Not only did he become a new member, though; he quickly climbed the membership ladder and became second-in-command under Laettner. (For what it’s worth, Laettner will forever remain at the top of Duke’s most hated list. If you don’t know why, just ask Aminu Timberlake.) And Allen’s meteoric rise in fan hatred was all due to perhaps the brattiest, most cowardly act one can commit on a basketball court that doesn’t include hair-pulling or eye-gouging. Tripping. No, not Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test tripping. This type of tripping.
Yeah, folks, he didn’t just do it once. He actually had the gall to do it twice in a span of three weeks. What recalcitrance! But, true to Duke form, he received nothing more than a simple reprimand from the ACC, which is basically a slap on the wrist. And, on top of that, he consistently whines to the referees, he cried like a little schoolgirl on the bench after his team blew a conference tournament game, he’s a bull in a china shop/foul magnet on the court, he’s an extremely sore loser and he looks like a young Ted Cruz. What’s not to hate?
But, people, you should enjoy hating him. One of the most common sentiments that American sports fans share is pulling against Duke, loving it when Duke loses and loathing the dorky white dudes who play for Duke and happen to be shockingly good at basketball. It’s called schadenfreude, folks, and it’s a fulfilling feeling indeed.
So don’t be mad that Allen is returning to grace your television screens for at least one more year before he takes his overrated talents to the NBA and becomes a perpetual benchwarmer. Enjoy your love of hating Allen while you still can. Because let’s be honest. We all secretly love Christian Laettner. Hatred for him made college basketball so much more entertaining, and the more he did to make the general public hate him, the more entertaining it became. Like Allen, Laettner could have gone pro after his sophomore year (and definitely after his junior year), but he didn’t. He stayed all four years at Duke, and we should all love/hate him for it. Because Laettner’s NBA career was a dud (which is typical for dorky white dudes not named Steve Nash), his legacy that is built on hatred might not have been built at all had he not stuck around long enough for “The Shot.” Or, perhaps more importantly, “The Stomp.”
Allen is Laettner 2.0. No, he’s not quite as good. Yes, he was the X factor in Duke’s 2015 National Championship victory, but he’s never going to achieve the level of postseason heroics that Laettner achieved. And, no, he’s also not quite as brash, cocky or easy to hate. But he’s as good as it gets in today’s college basketball landscape in terms of hatability (which isn’t actually a word, but whatever). So treasure Grayson Allen. Even if he does make you want to spit nails, he definitely makes college basketball more interesting. Most star college basketball players jump to the NBA before making much of an impact. At least Allen is embracing the hate and sticking around.
No, I’m not asking you to love Grayson Allen. I’m not even asking you to like him. I’m just asking that you appreciate him. Because there aren’t enough annoying college basketball players to hate these days. And that’s a crying shame. So enjoy Ted Cruz, Jr., while you still can. Speaking of which, at least Allen has never made a statement such as this.