Seven years ago today, SB Nation’s Memphis Grizzlies blog, Straight Outta Vancouver, was born. Now known as Grizzly Bear Blues, dozens upon dozens of writers and multiple Site Managers have come and gone, leaving their respective marks on a blog that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. From one or two writers to a staff of over twenty, and from a small corner of SB Nation to a multimedia content provider with writers appearing on Memphis radio and local/national podcasts, GBB’s best days remain ahead.
Of course, we would not be here without the efforts of those who came before. With that in mind, I reached out to three people who have made GBB what it is today. Tom Lorenzo, current Co-Manager of SB Nation’s NetsDaily, Kevin Lipe, currently of the Memphis Flyer’s Beyond the Arc Blog, and Chris Faulkner, Manager Emeritus of GBB, were kind enough to answer five questions for me about their GBB experiences and where they hope to see Grizzly Bear Blues go in the years ahead.
1. What are some of your favorite Grizzlies memories from your time writing for the site?
TL- I got pretty lucky, because I took over the site in 2010, at the All-Star Break, just as the Grizzlies went on a run and ended up in the Western Conference Semis. It was the start of the Grit-n-Grind era of basketball, so I had a really, really fun team to cover. They were the darlings of the NBA for about two years, which helped.
KL- Going to a Grizzlies/Warriors game in 2012 as a fan—before Tom Lorenzo and I pestered the Grizzlies into giving us a media credential—and writing my first “Game Diary” type post in a little Field Notes notebook sitting next to my wife while all the fans around us looked at me like I was a psychopath. This is the post. It’s dumb, but writing dumb stuff is the whole reason I got into this game.
That’s more “me” than “Grizzlies,” though. The memory I’ll carry with me forever is Game 6 against the Clippers in 2013. Zach Randolph putting Blake Griffin in a chokehold, the ejections, the “Whoop that trick” chants (before they were forced), the Motörhead playing in the arena… I was sitting next to the guy running the Clippers’ team Twitter account, and as the Forum bellowed for blood, all I could do was shrug. He looked like he feared for his life, like he’d been dropped onto some strange Thunderdome death cult planet. It was the most “Memphis” thing I’ve ever been a part of.
CF- I'd have to say getting to cover the Grizzlies’ record-setting comeback against the Kings in 2014 was pretty incredible. Getting to see Courtney Lee finish that pass from Vince Carter in person was something I'll never forget. It's also really hard to top Mike Conley's one-eyed performance in the 2015 playoffs. However I think my most favorite is the whole "Summer of Marc" when Big Spain declared his love for the city of Memphis.
2. How has GBB changed from your time at the helm?
TL- Well, when I was at the helm it had a totally different name - Straight Outta Vancouver. So, that's a pretty big change. And, at the time, it was mostly just me and Kevin Lipe writing on the site. I was writing alone for a while, and then Kevin e-mailed me and was like, "hey, do you need help?" Um, yeah! A two-man show, with like 4 dudes who would come by every night and join us in the comments section. It was a small community, but we had a ton of fun. Then we had Trisity join up -- and she's so, so good, too. It was a fun team. And once we got into a rhythm, I left Kevin high and dry, and went on to cover the Nets. Whoops!
KL- Well, for starters, there are actually enough people writing for the site to post something every day. I would’ve killed for that when I started out. But I think it’s grown to be a more inclusive thing. We were pretty fearlessly strange when I started writing for Straight Outta Vancouver, but no one really cared about the Grizzlies so no one noticed. As the team has gotten better, and the site has had more eyeballs on it, it’s gotten more accessible. I say that like it’s a bad thing, but man did I ever write some embarrassing stuff back in the day.
CF- It hasn't really been long enough for me to notice any changes, but I know Joe has a lot of fun new directions in store for the site.
3. Who are some of your favorite GBBers of all-time (by all means go old-school), and what are some of your favorite articles, either by them or by you?
TL- Kevin, of course, is one of my all-time favorites. Like I said, we were mostly a two-man show. Kevin had some pretty fun content series ideas -- his haikus, man. Those were great. And the Jib Jab! I mean, of course, djturtleface set the stage and put the Grizzlies on the blogosphere map. The site has never been anything but not-serious. I probably was a bit too block and tackle, compared to others, but the site as a whole was a nice alternative to the box scores.
KL- I’ve always been partial to the guys that were writing for the site when I started—Tom Lorenzo, obviously, who showed me how to write actual news stories, and gave me a shot in the first place. But also the cast of characters: Griffin Gotta. The relentless enthusiasm of Marcus Privitt. The mutual love of Juan Carlos Navarro that I shared with ForeignFlopper.
And then, of course, I liked everybody I added to the team while I was running site. That seems self-evident. Ford’s breakdowns of film. Hrdlicka’s reckless literary abandon. The Grind Prophecies giveaway stuff. Some Mullinax guy (this was before Jeff Green was on the team, so I didn’t know any better). We had a lot of fun, because it felt like the site was so small that (1) you could try whatever you wanted and see if it worked and (2) there was nowhere to go but up.
My all-time favorite thing from my time with the site is this piece, especially now that OJ Mayo has been banned from the NBA for two years: Griffin Gotta’s piece on how OJ Mayo spent his summer vacation. It was poignant then, but in light of what we know about OJ now, his struggles to find himself, his (apparent) struggles with substance abuse, the journeyman road he’s had to take… I have only purchased one NBA jersey with my own money, and it’s a baby blue Mayo jersey I bought before the triple overtime OKC game in 2011. And this piece—it’s still probably my favorite thing that’s ever appeared on the site.
CF- Man, there's been so many people come through. I know Blues City Joe is one of my all-time favs. He was the first person who I lured onto the staff from the comments sections. The fellows in the GBB HOF Class of '16 are definitely some of the all-time greats as well. Okitech623, Vincent Torello, Vukth ... great people. I have a soft spot for all of the stalwart Grind Prophecies players too.
4. What do you miss most now that you have stepped away from running GBB?
TL- To be honest, the Grizzlies fans have always been great to me, as have the other members of the Memphis media. I'm an outsider -- have never lived in Memphis -- but everyone has always been pretty appreciative of the work I/we did (I think). Well, there was one incident where someone within the Memphis media wrote something about the site, painting us as a bunch of New York City fat cats running the site from Trump Towers -- except that, you know, Kevin was covering the team from the ground in Memphis and I was living in one bedroom apartment near downtown Brooklyn. But, the details in that story are for another time...unless you get me drunk enough.
KL- Having a team. Writing everything on your own is a very different challenge; I miss being able to bounce ideas off of people, and having people who could cover my blind spots with their enthusiasm. It’s much more of a grind covering the season by yourself, for sure.
CF- Well if I'm being honest right now I don't necessarily miss it, haha. It's been a relief for me to see the site get churning again under the leadership of someone else. But I'm only a couple of months into my departure. I'll probably really start missing it either once the regular season or the playoffs start up. It's just really fun getting to direct the show when the Grizzlies are winning games.
5. What are your hopes for GBB moving forward?
TL- I hope you guys just keep having fun with the site -- embrace the fact that you're covering a very much likable team in a very much likable city. And embrace new media! The podcast is so great, and the Twitter feed is as good as it gets. Embrace that, and continue to give the people of Memphis a great mix of Grizzlies content.
KL- Stay weird, stay Memphis. Like Penny Hardaway always said, if you grew up in Memphis in the 90’s and remember the commercials, Be smart, stay clean, keep the dream.
CF- My hopes are for GBB to continue a lot of the tradition and perspective that I brought to the blog. I wanted my time managing the site to show everyone that there's a lot more to the Grizzlies than just the professional basketball they play. We've got a incredibly interesting group of guys and their lives off the court can bring us as much joy as their lives on the court. I hope GBB never loses its spirit of fun and lightheartedness – in good times or bad. Thankfully I know that we're in good hands for the future.
Many thanks to Tom, Kevin, and Chris for taking part in this GBB Birthday Q&A, and for the tremendous work they have done throughout the years!