With certain players one can think instantly of a word or phrase that defines that player best. For example for most Michael Jordan Is the GOAT, Lebron James the best all around player ever to play, Karl Malone the best who never won an NBA title while in the German BBL Derrick Allen had the greatest work ethic and passion that ever played the game in Germany. After 16 productive professional seasons as a player, the guy most everyone called D.A has decided to hang up his jersey and put his sneakers in the closet. I have covered him for 15 years and quite honestly thought this guy would never quit. He seemed to have the right genes to allow him to play forever and to possibly start a competition with Tom Brady to see who would go the longest. I honestly thought he could play into his 40´s. The guy just couldn´t slow down and still had those solid stats averaging 10,6ppg and 4,2rpg in the high level easyCredit BBL with Science City Jena last season. Ok so it wasn´t the overwhelming massive stats he put up in his first 9 seasons, but still good enough to help his teams be successful. The only guy that played as long as he did in his era was Chris Ensminger who also retired at age 39. The Bamberg legend like Allen probably could of kept playing as he was still able to compete with the top players in the BBL. In a way it is surprising that he retired, because he was still fit and could compete at a high level, but on the other hand, he also kept his family in his mind. There comes a time when the family finally takes center stage and the court takes a back seat reserved for the memories. His wife said it best on social media recounting how D.A jumped into a pool this summer with no mercy something he would never imaged doing while being a pro with the risk of getting injured and having to miss a single work out. She knew then that he was serious about retiring. Now it is only fitting to look back at the stellar career of Derrick Allen.
Derrick Allen grew up in Gadsen, Alabama and got his first college ball experience in the late 90´s with Southern Union State CC and then was able to make the jump to the NCAA with Mississippi(NCAA) playing there from 2001-2003 amassing 59 games and as a senior averaged 8.2ppg, 4.9rpg, 15ast. He began his professional career in 2003 and like many talented guys had to prove himself in a lower league with Iprottabandalag Keflavikur (Iceland-Epson League) playing 8 FIBA Europe Cup games averaging 26.6ppg, 9.4rpg, 2.5apg, 1.8spg; and played 22 Icelandic League games averaging 23,4ppg, 10.5rpg. He then made the jump to Germany and would play there for the rest of his career except for one where he moonlighted in Belgium with Belgacom Spirou (Belgium-Ethias League). He would play 14 of his 16 professional seasons in Germany and at first had to continue to pay his dues playing for lower BBL teams BG Karlsruhe and the Bayer Giants Leverkusen before making another step going to the Deutsche Bank Skyliners where he played from 2007-2010. He needed no adjustment period to the BBL and right away was a force at the forward position averaging 15,1ppg and 7,6rpg and in his second season improved the stats averaging 17,4ppg and 8,7rpg top 5 in the league. In his third season he led the BBL in scoring with Leverkusen averaging 16.5ppg, and 7.3rpg. In his three years with Frankfurt he continued to put up massive stats including averaging 18,1ppg second best in the BBL and averaged 19,9ppg third best in the ULEB cup competition. Even if Frankfurt was a club on the rise at that time, it wasn´t a top two team as Bamberg and Alba Berlin shared those spots. It took him 7 years to make to the top in Germany joining Alba Berlin in 2010. Despite having a lot more scoring options in Berlin, he still stayed consistent and averaged double figures in scoring in both Eurocup seasons. After a season in Belgium, he returned back to Germany and would continue to put up consistent stats averaging double figures in scoring in four of his last five BBL seasons with Bremerhaven, Braunschweig, Vechta and Science City Jena. He played one season in the Pro A with Vechta helping them get back to the BBL in 2016. At the end of 16 seasons, he won two titles in Iceland and a league title in Belgium. He reached the BBL final with Frankfurt in 2010 and 2011 with Alba Berlin. He played a total number of 477 BBL games and as a professional including his short stint with the Southern Crescent Lightning (WBA) in 2004 a total of 645 professional games.
Obviously the work ethic and passion will always be synonymous with Derrick Allen, but also his game on the court is something that will always be remembered fondly by anyone who ever had the pleasure of observing his game. He was a scoring machine that also used his quickness and anticipation to get rebounds over bigger players and was a better than average passer out of the post. He had a very lethal mid distance/pull up jumper and such a quick release that defenders didn´t have enough time to be able to any way make it a contested shot. He belonged to the top 5 forwards for many years in the BBL and played at a high level in the BBL. But one has to wonder just how far he could have come had he incorporated a consistent three pointer and been able to be an above average defender. Even if his defense seemed to be his weak point, not everyone believed that. “Derrick is a great team defender. And with the way Frankfurt plays defense, there isn´t much one on one defense. He and Frankfurt locked me pretty good in two of the three games. But critics are going to be critics. Without them, what is there to talk about”, added 2009 BBL scoring leader Omari Westley. What I will always remember from him was his gracefulness in the paint area that reminded me of a ballerina dancer. There were world class ballerinas like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frederick Ashton and Erik Bruhn and then there was Derrick Allen. He often looked like an out of control energize bunny strutting in the post, but once he had his ballerina shoes going, there was no stopping him. Often he made his opponent who was trying to guard him look like a helpless puppy that had lost it´s mother. The secret to his success being able to out dance defenders down low came from watching different big men while he was growing up. Having to go up against guys who were 20-30 pounds heavier, he obviously had to use his quickness, but the special moves and fakes that he had incorporated into his game over the years to keep his defenders off balance made him even more dangerous and unstoppable. Then coupled with his work ethic and will to be better than the other, he was able to consistently out work his defenders while getting that rebound or loose ball. Back in 2010, his teammate Immanuel Mcelroy was content that he was a basketball player and not a ballerina. ““He will really help with his moves in the zone. I am positive that he will never be a ballerina. He will stick to basketball always”, joked Immanuel Mcelroy. It wasn´t only the ballerina moves that he exceled at, but was a flash on the track. I will never forget when he ran a 10,7 in the 100 meters in training camp in 2009 in Frankfurt. The comparisons to Usain Bolt quickly surfaced, but thank God that he never seriously looked into getting better at that as he stuck to basketball and his ballerina moves something people really wanted to watch.
But what will forever be remembered about Derrick Allen the player was his amazing work ethic and his unending passion to win. It really doesn´t matter which opponent you ask or teammate, but usually the first response to him from the player is “He is the hardest working player that I ever played with/saw. The way that phrase is blurted out by just about every player who ever got the question is as self-evident as when Steve Urkel alias Jaleel White used to say his famous line of “Did I do that” after a mishap happened on the hit American TV show Family Matters. One has to remember that DA began at Community College, then was a rookie in Iceland and had to pay his dues for seven years before he reached the height of his career in 2010 with top European team Alba Berlin. I never asked him if he had played with a chip on his shoulder his whole career, but when you look at how well he took care of his body and how hard he worked to always get better and the never-ending hours in the gym after the rest of his teammates were at home playing play station, one sure got the idea that he had something to prove every single day. A good example of his dedication to always wanting to get better was when he was playing with the Deutsche Bank Skyliners in Frankfurt. Allen was always in the gym and because he was there after hours, his head coach at the time Murat Didin got problems at home. He wasn´t able to spend enough time with his son Ahmet, but the diplomatic Didin stated with humor that he couldn´t just abandon his star player, so he remained after hours to help him work diligently on his game. Allen had such an overwhelming impact on everybody from that young NBBL player to the fellow veteran player. Another prime example of his great impact on teammates was when Larry Gordon was his teammate for only a few months in 2017 with Rasta Vechta. Gordon had belonged to the BBL´s top forwards from 2012-2015 when he was with Phoenix Hagen and after a short stint in Korea came to Germany to finish out the season. He didn´t have a big role with Rasta Vechta, but enough time to soak up as much as possible from Allen´s immaculate work ethic. “What has amazed me the most about Derrick Allen is that he still finds the energy to get back on the court year after year. He gives me hope as a basketball player, that if I take care of my body and work hard, I can play for a very long time”, stressed Larry Gordon.
I have interviewed more than 1200 players in Germany since 2004 and of course Derrick Allen is included. I interviewed him numerous times in my radio show, after games and also for Eurobasket.com. I don´t remember exactly how often I interviewed him, but it is somewhere in the region of 20-30 times and every single interview was always a pleasure. The first time I interviewed him was in the 2005-2006 season when he was playing with BG Karlsruhe. I believe he was injured at that time and I had the opportunity to conduct a pre game interview with him in the Ballsporthalle in Frankfurt. Back then I did the interviews high above the court in the press boxes. In later years when he joined the Frankfurt team, I did all interviews at court side. He was always a good interview as he was a guy that was well spoken and always told the way it was. I loved watching his ballerina moves, but I never ever dreamed of trying it on the court. It was one of those things where you could truly say “Don´t try this at home”. There was only one Derrick “Mr ballerina” Allen. I obviously had consistent contact to him during his 2007-2010 stay in Frankfurt. The years after, I would only see him a few times a season, but I would always mark an X on the calendar at the day when Frankfurt was playing his team. The last two years were very exciting to follow him as he was teammates with two other BBL legends Julius Jenkins and Immanuel Mcelroy. I was hoping like so many other basketball freaks that it would never end and the trio would come back every year. The day had to come one day that he would retire. It is something that we all have to accept. Now fans will probably envision his ballerina moves every now and then and just reminisce about the good old days with him. In November 2012, I conducted an interview with him as he was playing in Belgium. I asked him then about his chances to return to Frankfurt and end his career and he said “ We did talk a little, but there was nothing serious. It depends where the Skyliners will be in two years. If the right chance comes, I would love to come back. Frankfurt has a special place in my heart“, warned Derrick Allen. And for numerous fans in Germany, Derrick Allen will have a special place in their hearts forever.