I was born in 1987, right in the midst of Michael Jordan being at his greatest. I started watching basketball when he made his return to the NBA after having tried to carve out a career playing baseball.
As a young child I wasn't really a fan of any team, though I was more swayed towards the Bulls as at the time they were more or less the only NBA team that would get shown on U.K TV, much like today, where unless we stream the games online. The majority of games we see over here involve the Lakers, Knicks or whichever team LeBron James is playing for.
I always took a keen interest in the NBA, but growing up soccer became my number 1 sport and I followed my team, Sheffield United, up and down the country to see them play.
Anyway, fast forward to the year 2007 when I met my now wife whilst on vacation in Spain. Now this may not be the most romantic of love stories, but this is my story of how I came to love not just the Grizzlies, but the city of Memphis as well.
My wife is a big fan of Elvis Presley, and when we became a couple she would always talk about wanting to visit Memphis to see Graceland. Me being an NBA fan saw this as an opportunity to finally take in a live NBA game. As I said before, I wasn't really a fan of any team. But now I started to take more of an interest in the Grizzlies. I started watching as many games as possible, reading as much as I could on the teams history. My interest in the Griz soon became an obsession. I couldn't wait to get to Memphis and see the team play.
By 2011 my wife and I had gotten married and had two daughters, but we had yet to visit Memphis. In late 2012 we had decided to take our 2013 vacation in Memphis, and we arrived in America on the 10th of April. Obviously we had to visit all the tourist attractions, Graceland, Sun Studio and the rest. But the main attraction for me was Grizzlies vs Clippers on the 13th of April.
This was the first time I had stepped foot inside the FedExForum: the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, I had shivers down my spine. The atmosphere was electric all night. My daughters who were only 3 and 1 year old at the time loved it, although they were more interested in seeing Grizz than the game itself. Unfortunately the Grizzlies would lose the game, but it left me thirsty for more. I wanted to be there every night for every game.
When we returned to the U.K we decided we would return to Memphis the following year. Once again we did all the tourist things, but this time we went to watch the Grizzlies three times. Against Denver, Philadelphia and Miami. The memories of all three games will stay with me forever, but I am extremely proud to say I was there when we beat Miami. It was truly one of the best nights of my life. The atmosphere on Beale Street before and after the game was fantastic. And what happened on the court was truly incredible. I loved every minute of it.
But basketball is not the only reason I love Memphis. Your cars are great, your BBQ is simply amazing, the price of gas is a whole lot cheaper, and you Memphians are the most genuine, friendly, helpful people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. You are great people, and every single one of you that I met on vacation are a credit to your great city.
As for me, now 26 years old, basketball is now my number 1 sport. I don't follow soccer much any more; I just look out for my teams score every week whist I stay awake through the night watching the Grizzlies play. I may have only been a fan since 2007, but I couldn't imagine not being a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies now, and I hope that one day I can also call your great city 'home'.
I believe that we do not choose to become Grizzlies fans, but that we are chosen to become Grizzlies fans.