Superhero movies generally fill several major character archetypes. Most have a hero and a villain. In mediocre movies, the hero is inherently likeable and the villain is often one dimensionally bad. Think Deadpool’s Ajax, the sadistic mutant who disfigured Deadpool for laughs. Ajax wasn’t particularly interesting and it was satisfying to see him defeated. On the other hand, some villains are engaging to the point of viewers wanting them to stay alive just to face the hero another day. Batman’s Joker has always been very adept at filling this role.
In recent times, we have been introduced to a new kind of superhero movie: that of the anti-hero. Catwoman was terrible (sorry Halle Berry fans), but nonetheless a good example of the genre. Deadpool was definitely an anti-hero with his mercenary ways and foul language. Even Batman toyed with the anti-hero thing. It’s trendy, ok?
With the rise of the anti-hero, there naturally has to be a contrasting force. Sure, you can just be badder than the anti-hero (Deadpool/Ajax) but you can also be an… anti-villain! Wikipedia tells me that’s already a thing, and it’s called a sympathetic villain. Whatever. Moving forward.
Now, everyone knows that superhero movies and their archetypes are basically an exaggerated microcosm of everyday life. All these archetypes exist in our politics, our justice systems, and most prominently: sports. Sports are where the anti-hero/sympathetic villain personas really come into play. It’s easy to make a comic book villain one-dimensional, but it’s a lot harder when it’s a real person. Kevin Durant is currently the NBA’s most prominent anti-hero. People love to hate him, but deep down, you know his heart, head, and shooting stroke are in the right place.
Draymond Green on the other hand, is a straight villain through and through. He accepts that persona and uses it to his personal advantage, much like the Joker. Being a villain suits him, and if anything, the hatred he receives from fans feeds his energy, making him even more unstoppable. Being a smaller power forward, having a reputation as a man who will do anything is a blessing/curse only Green could bear.
Before this turns into a bad Buzzfeed article, I’d like to direct your attention towards a very unique origin story that has been developing in front of our very eyes for the last year. Our protagonist of the hour’s name is Grayson Allen and he is nearing a pretty important phase of development. But first: let’s set the stage.
Two years and three months ago, a fresh-faced kid from Jacksonville, Florida took the floor for Duke University. He averaged 4.4 points and 9 minutes a game–not bad for a freshman, especially one on a basketball powerhouse like Duke. The kid was good. Then, in the span of one national championship game, the kid became great.
One might remember the 2014-15 Duke Blue Devils for a variety of reasons, all of them in the first year of their college careers. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones were the freshmen to watch. Allen was the prodigal odd man out, coming off the bench behind his heavily discussed teammates to little fanfare. Then, the 2015 NCAA championship happened.
He scored 16 points, a season high for him in a game in which Okafor was contained to just 10 points by Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky. Despite his newfound success, he chose to be the only one in the freshman Duke trio to remain; both Jones and Okafor declared for the NBA draft following the season.
The next year, he came back as a leader. He claimed so many accolades, they can’t even fit them on one page on the Duke website. It was mostly a good season, except for one little issue: Allen had been reprimanded on two separate occasions for deliberate tripping. Not a great look for a team’s star player. Regardless, he apologized, expressed his regret, and moved on–or so it seemed. Once again, he put off declaring for the NBA draft.
This year was supposed to be his year. He was projected as Sports Illustrated’s Player of the year and was exceeding expectations by the time December hit. Averaging 16 points a game and leading his team in assists, Allen was a key part of Duke’s success.
Then, it happened again. Allen tripped Steven Santa Ana of Elon, then proceeded to throw a temper tantrum when slapped with the technical:
He proceeded to sob his way through his postgame interview like me when Rita died in Dexter (still not okay, thanks for asking). His intensity and immense lack of emotional composure caught fans off guard. Takes ranged from the predictable “he’s a baby” and “there’s no crying in basketball” to deep think pieces about potential mental illness.
That brings us more or less back to the present. Coach Mike Krzyzewski threw his star guard an “indefinite suspension” and stripped him of his captaincy. The suspension lasted one Duke loss, before Allen was re-instated, just in time for ACC play.
Regardless of your take on the effectiveness of his punishment, one cannot deny that Allen is at a key point of his career. If we’re talking superhero origin stories, Allen is about to become either an anti-hero or the least sympathetic sympathetic villain of all time.
Should he repent for the tripping and proceed to finish his college career in a clean fashion, he will be known as the troubled Duke player who reformed himself for the good of his team. Obviously, critics will still deem him dirty, but every anti-hero has their critics.
If he trips again, he will be forced to own it. He will have to accept and own the reputation Draymond-style, or his intensity will be his own downfall. You saw him in post-game interviews. He mentally will not be able to withstand his own nature. He’s always been his own harshest critic and never before have we seen such a conflicted villain.
Duke will take on Boston College on Saturday. Only time will tell if Allen has chosen his path. As all superhero fans know… there’s always a sequel. To be continued.