I have always been a Pittsburgh sports fan. I grew up in a small town called Weirton, West Virginia, only 30 minutes from my beloved Steelers, Penguins and Pirates. I never really gave much thought to the NBA during my time up north; my grandfather is a Celtics fan (which never felt right) and cheering on the 76ers seemed like it would be sacrilegious (because it is). I just could never find my team.
In 2001, my dad got a job opportunity in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite leaving my sports hotbed, I still followed the teams like it was a cult. I always knew that these teams would be a part of me and the irrational bond I had created with them was something important to me.
I have never in my life felt that way about an NBA team. I watch all the playoff games and watch the Grizzlies and Hawks a lot locally, but never chose to follow them. In 8th Grade, I loved Dwyane Wade and bought his jersey and a championship hat when the Miami Heat won the NBA title, but it never felt right. When LeBron came into the picture, things only got worse. I felt lost. I wanted to be excited but could not.
So in a "The Decision"-esque fashion, I listed some teams that had drawn my interests: the Pacers, Timberwolves and the new Brooklyn Nets topped the list for several reasons. I knew that one of those teams was going to be my new favorite squad.
Then, something started to happen. One day I was playing basketball with some friends and I was living in the paint (as a normally do). One of my friends shouted at me, "Okay, that's enough, Zach Randolph". It made me laugh and think about a team that I never really had considered before. A team that plays tough defense and plays tough inside. A blue-collar team just like my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. The Memphis Grizzlies.
Watching their first round exit was sad, but I knew I liked these guys. Then, a random trip to the thrift store confirmed my fanhood: while searching the racks of randomly assorted clothing, I found two Grizzlies t-shirts. One is just blue and says "Memphis Basketball" on the front. But the other one is pretty cool; it is white and looks to be like some type of playoff rally t-shirt. On the front it says "Believe Memphis". Those words were inspiring. I wanted to believe in this team. I wanted to have a team. But only one question remains. Is this possible?
Can I create fanhood, or is something earned through years of following? I have always been a die-hard Steelers, Penguins and Pirates fan, I cannot even remember not rooting for them. So I came to you, Straight Outta Vancouver, to ask for your acceptance into a fraternity of fans that just got their first playoff win two seasons ago.
I know about the Rudy Gay trade rumors. I know the history of the team. I want to believe in Memphis. But do the fans of Memphis believe in me?