If you have followed the Memphis Grizzlies at all since 2010 (when Tony Allen became a Grizzly), you would have heard the coined phrase of “Grit-n-Grind”. These two and a half words don’t mean much to anyone outside of the city of Memphis, but there’s no better way to describe the tandem of the city and the team than those words.
Tony Allen has become the face of this mantra, partly because he said the words himself after a win against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, but also because his play on the court is reflective of those words. Now nicknamed “The Grindfather”, Tony Allen has shaped the Grizzlies organization to represent the city of Memphis.
Perhaps you don’t know what the city of Memphis is like. Well let me give you a glimpse provided by the U.S. Census Bureau: the population is around 650,000 and about 30% of the people live below the poverty line. For most people in Memphis, hard work and the daily grind are a means of survival.
So when the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team began to shape around the tenacity and scrappy play of Tony Allen, Memphis natives identified strongly with the style. I don’t have to report that Tony Allen has been selected to the First-Team All Defense three times, he tells the crowd the same just about every time he gets a steal.
But there’s more to the Memphis Grizzlies that the city can rally behind. According to ESPN’s Ultimate Standings of 2016, which ranks sports franchises in the Big 4 (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) sports leagues based on an assortment of economic and production categories, the Memphis Grizzlies are the number 14 overall sports franchise. They are the number 3 NBA team.
That means they are in the top 11% of all sports franchises in the United States (and Canada). Last year they were the number 2 overall franchise, and the year before, they were number 4 overall. All that sounds great - being ranked number 2 behind on the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA is certainly something to be proud of - but what is that ranking based on?
For starters, and arguably most important to the city of Memphis, the Grizzlies ranked 1 in affordability in 2015 and number 2 in 2016. The average ticket price is around $31, which is $25 less than the NBA average. You can get tickets for as low as $9 depending on the night of the week and the opposing team. They also ranked number 5 for “bang for buck” in 2016, which considers the success of the team compared to the cost of the overall fan experience.
Another category that represents the city more is the “players” category. This metric is based on the effort of the players in conjunction with their likability off of the court. The Grizzly players have averaged a rank of number 9 overall in this category, which shows their dedication to playing hard for the fans.
The only category that has seemed to disappoint fans across the state of Tennessee is the Grizzlies Title Track. From 2014 to 2016 the Grizzlies’ rank for title track was 62, 64, and 86 respectively. They have reached just one conference finals in team history, and were swept by the elusive San Antonio Spurs.
The Grizzlies have looked to right this wrong by signing max contracts to high-profile players such as longtime Grizzly Mike Conley (who scored what was then the largest contract in league history in 2016) and Marc Gasol. In the 2016 off season the team signed Chandler Parsons to a max contract deal as well, who Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale said “has the same skillset as Lebron James.”
We all know Parsons has struggled so far this year, but we also know the potential he has. I know fans are questioning his signing as of late, but here is his personal defense on why the Grizzlies signed him:
Cuz im really good at basketball. https://t.co/rGy6XzcvUJ— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) June 28, 2016
The results of this year’s season have shown that this team is investing to win a title.
The Grizzlies are 36-27 on the year, and are currently the 6 seed in the Western Conference. They hold that position without the consistent quality play of a sure fire Hall of Famer on their roster. The team will only soar higher when (if) Chandler Parsons is able to become himself again. Things look promising in Memphis, and the fans are prepared to rally around this team yet again.