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Finish them: The Clippers, Game 6, and the kid inside us all

The Grizzlies eliminated the hated Clippers in Game 6 at FedEx Forum, as 18,000 screaming Memphians got to be kids again.

Kevin C. Cox


That's what the banner read, the banner unfurled from the top of a two-story ladder straddled by Memphis' snarling mascot, Grizz.

When the banner dropped so did the beat and with it the inhibitions of 18,000 Memphians, who obliged the Al Kapone track and shouted, lustily, crazily, ecstatically, "WHOOP THAT TRICK! WHOOP THAT TRICK! WHOOP THAT TRICK!"

I believe I will never again experience such gleeful vengeance.

It was Game 6 of the first round of the 2013 playoffs, and the Grizzlies were about to go all Mortal Kombat on the Clippers. The hated Clippers, who had eliminated the Grizzlies in their 2012 playoff cage fight, were on the ropes. The Grizzlies were about to, as Grizz suggested, finish them.

Los Angeles had brought a 2-0 series lead to Memphis after Chris Paul sank an absurd game-winner in Game 2, a loss that, in the unwavering tradition of sports fans everywhere, left me shaking my head, broken, inconsolably certain of the Grizzlies' inevitable elimination.

And then, three straight wins, and Game 6, and a last-minute careening down I-40 West from Nashville, and BELIEVE MEMPHIS growl towels, and 23 points from Mike Conley. Blake Griffin got hurt, and then he got bodyslammed (Z-Bodyslammed?). Zach Randolph was 2011 Spurs Playoff Series Zach Randolph: he made a few unconscionable fallaways, one in the 3rd that he sailed over Griffin, Matt Barnes, TJ Simers, Zac Efron, and any other Los Angelenos foolhardy enough to get in his way.

Playing the Clippers in FedEx Forum is a chance to relive childhood for Memphis fans. We're so helpless as children, and we've all had someone take advantage of our helplessness. Bullies, who, with their words and their fists told us we were not good enough, that we were too fat or ugly or slow, that we didn't live in the right house or have the right friends. We all carry this heaviness from childhood with us. With the players as our captive audience, FedEx Forum is where we avenge our childhoods.

If that sounds dramatic, well, go to a Clippers-Grizzlies playoff game in Memphis. Fans -- myself included -- scream at Blake Griffin like he beat us up in kindergarten, dog-cussed our grandmothers, and took all our moms out on dates. We hate Chris Paul the way you hate your classmate who seems like the perfect kid -- teachers love him, your mom wonders why you don't invite that nice boy over to play -- but we see what he does when the teachers aren't looking, tripping kids at recess, taking your lunch money, so desperate for attention he'll flail his arms and fall to the ground if you so much as bump him on the playground.

The Clippers are the teacher's pet. The Grizzlies are the trouble kid, always getting blamed for everything.

So when Grizz climbed to the top of that ladder, when he dropped that sign, when that trouble-kid-from-Memphis track lurched us all into a "Whoop that trick!" frenzy, it was something very pure and innocent and youthful in us that cheered on the Grizzlies and cursed the Clippers.

Soon after, Chris Paul punched Marc Gasol in the stomach, and got thrown out, a beautiful comeuppance for the player Memphis fans have always seen straight through. Paul's walking off the court -- he still wore that I-didn't-do-anything look -- may have elicited the loudest cheers of the night.

Seconds later, our own childlike and lovable bully, Z-Bo, who we love for his refusal to cower before the "cool kids" of the NBA, got ejected for some loudmouthed and probably-deserved reason. Randolph sauntered off the court, relishing the moment, the victory sealed, working the crowd, riling us up into one last cheer. He slung his headband into the crowd and skipped off the court, just a kid, like us -- a kid without a care in the world.