Yes, Game 4 was one of the most incredible moments and days in Memphis Grizzlies history. Mike Conley’s performance displayed the awesome ability of a man who never made the All-Star team, but never needed the title to define his talents.
His performance was mesmerizing, but more mesmerizing was the beautiful hug he shared with Marc Gasol post-game.
This is all you can really ask for as a Grizzlies fan. These are two cornerstones of the franchise’s entire history. The Grizzlies history book before the Core Four was more of a history pamphlet, as the team wasn’t known for much outside of moving from Vancouver. They carried the franchise from anonymity into perennial playoff competition, and on Saturday night, after a draining win, carried each other off the floor.
I love everything about this hug. Two teammates who have been with each other for nearly a decade express their complete joy and relief in each other’s arms. And a fan who has never met either of the two can experience the same feeling by watching their reactions. It was an amazing scene that deserves a full breakdown, which is exactly what I am here to deliver.
Mike Conley is done with his post-game interview, and Papa Bear Gasol brings him in for a hug. Gasol has the arm around Conley’s shoulder and Mike Conley has the look of pure contentment. Like when your significant other remembers something small about you that’s not all that important in the grand scheme of things, but still important to you cause they remembered it. It’s the little things.
LOOK AT THAT SMILE. You can’t fake that smile folks, that’s genuine love right there. This is the pure joy that the entire Memphis fanbase was feeling after Saturday night. Conley is buried in Gasol’s chest, which makes him look like a child in comparison. Mike Conley is 6’1”, which isn’t short by any normal people standards. But he’s an NBA player and Gasol still makes it look like he’s picking up his son from school. NBA players are not from the same planet that humans beings are.
Marc Gasol immediately whips him away like a Secret Service agent protecting the President from a threat. Gasol, who has shown no emotion thus far, continues to show no emotion. Mike Conley’s pouring out his love in smiles and it turns out, Marc was just using the hug to herd Mike to the locker room. Cold-blooded, Marc.
What was once beautiful has now turned into possibly light bullying. Conley’s damn near in a head lock here.
If and when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley get statues outside of FedExForum, it should be a single statue of this moment. Mike Conley, who put the team on his back in the 4th quarter and overtime and Marc Gasol, who’s been with him for almost his entire NBA career, and is there to help him after Mike helped the team so much.
These two players are attached at the hip both in appearance and on the court. They were drafted in the same year, they’ve each only played for one franchise, and hell, most of the time they’re on the court together they’re running pick-and-pops with each other.
Here they are again, tied to one another not just as teammates, but as two sides of the same coin. They are a part of the Memphis Grizzlies just as much as the Memphis Grizzlies are a part of them. The Grizzlies don’t define them as people, but the Grizzlies’ Grit and Grind ideology relates to them just as much as Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Mike and Marc’s games aren’t based on the same toughness that TA’s game is, but they’ve proven themselves time and time again to be just as physically and mentally tough.
The Grizzlies used all the toughness and determination they could on Saturday. Conley played like a top-flight point guard. JaMychal Green was a madman with effort. David Fizdale coached his ass off. To beat a superior team like the Spurs, you need to play above your means and be technically sound.
This game won’t be known for being technically sound for Memphis. It’ll be known as a game where the Grindhouse was a madhouse, where the passion and intensity of the Grizzlies was everything they could give, knowing that if they lost, Game 5 could be their last, the last of the season and the last of the Core Four altogether.
So this is Marc Gasol, carrying Mike Conley out like James Brown at the end of Please, Please, Please. Exhausted and empty because all he had to give was left on the court to win 110-108 in overtime. Two players attached at the hip by chance NBA transactions, now embracing each other off the court in one of their franchise’s finest moments. Only topped by the hug these two shared to commemorate the victory.