Tony Allen

Memphis Grizzlies' Tony Allen reacts after scoring against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: CAMS108

Marcio Jose Sanchez

Sometimes, there are things that even a stopper can't stop.

Tony Allen is a stopper.

The Pelicans guard made the NBA All-Defensive team six times, including three first-team selections, before coming to New Orleans.

Kobe Bryant, the third-leading scorer in league history, called Allen the best defender he's ever faced.

But every now and then, Allen meets his match.

If Allen had his way, he would have stopped the tears Thursday.

But he couldn't.

Not after finding out his former team, the Memphis Grizzlies, would be retiring his jersey.

"I ain't trying to tear up with y'all right now," Allen told the media as the first tear began to form in his eyes. "But I just appreciate it."

Allen has been with the Pelicans for less than a month, having signed a 1-year deal in September.

But it was clear Thursday just how much of his heart still belongs to the city of Memphis.

It's where he made his name, a part of the Mount Rushmore of the Memphis Grizzlies' Grit and Grind days alongside Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. His No. 9 Grizzlies jersey will someday hang in the FedEx Forum rafters next to Randolph's, the Grizzlies announced Thursday.

Allen gets a chance to return to that very building Friday when the Pelicans play the Grizzlies in the final preseason game for both teams. A sore ankle will keep him out Friday, but he returns to his old stomping grounds again Wednesday for the regular-season opener.

During media days in September, Allen wasn't sure what it would be like to walk back into the arena he called home the past six seasons.

He wasn't sure if he'd be emotional. Or if he would "be like Rambo."

Now it seems like it would be more of the former than the latter.

"I don't know man," he said. "A lot of faces I want to see. Fans. All heart. That's love."

All heart.

That's the way Allen has played the game his entire NBA career.

Casual NBA fans probably don't even know he is. He's never played in an NBA All-Star Game and probably never will.

He's not going to fill up the stat sheet with offensive numbers.

Allen averaged 11.5 points per game in his best offensive season, back in 2007-08 when he played with the Boston Celtics.

Allen, or "the Grindfather" as they called him in Memphis, wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

"That's the thing," Allen said. "I was never really doing that for notoriety. I was never trying to be in your paper or your latest magazine. I was doing it just playing hard, playing the right way and trying to win. I never cared about the fanciness and the All-Star Games. ... All I wanted to be known for was being one of the greatest defenders to play the game."

He did that, becoming a blue-collar player on a blue-collar team.

He was one of the tough guys on a team known for its toughness.

But as Allen showed Thursday, tough guys cry, too.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.