The Memphis Grizzlies have been here almost as long as I’ve been alive, and they’ve already impacted my life in so many ways. As I’m attending the University of Memphis and about to be a sophomore, I’ve been reflecting on how the recently departed “Grit and Grind” era has affected me and how the Grizzlies have integrated themselves into the culture of the city of Memphis. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen have become legendary figures in this city, and it’s not just a basketball team to me. It’s a grinding way of life, and it’s a group of guys working toward a collective goal.
And while older and younger locals appreciate the team, there’s something unique about my generation’s connection to the team. I grew up alongside the Grizzlies, and my connection to the team has grown as I’ve grown up. And I’m not the only college student who feels this way.
“I was in elementary school when I started following the Grizzlies. I started playing basketball in 2nd grade, and I looked up to the giant guys that played on the big court. I remember the first game I went to was against the Denver Nuggets. I've been fascinated ever since,” Allison Schweizer, sophomore at the University of Memphis, said.
“I first started following the Grizzlies on my 8th birthday when my dad took me to a Grizz-Hawks game. I received a Mike Miller Jersey and I was so proud to have it,” said University of Memphis student Da'varius Broyles,
The Memphis Grizzlies have been around only a relatively short time in the city’s history, and they definitely had a shaky start with their lack of playoff success. They started off in the Memphis Pyramid, and they were later moved to FedExForum, where thousands now watch the team compete, growl towels waving high.
Going to a Grizz playoff game isn’t like going to an ordinary sporting event, either. It’s a chance for a collective group of people to rally behind their group of guys. And my generation has gotten to truly enjoy this massive playoff run the Grizzlies are riding. Hannah Cooper, sophomore at Ole Miss and Memphis native, recalled her own experiences at Grizz playoff games and how memorable they have been to her.
“A playoff game to me is a chance to show the country that we are in the hardest division...to some we may be irrelevant, but we give no one a free ride to the next round. We battle and make the other teams work for it. We get the credit we deserve,” Cooper said.
This feeling of support for the team has been contagious.
“This team is more to me than a fun team to watch. It is home when I'm at Ole Miss. It's me introducing my city to my friends who are all over the country. I took one of my friends from Arizona to a Grizzlies game and he is now rooting the Grizzlies from Arizona. When we win games, I see people walking all over campus with Grizz apparel and it’s a connection for all of us. I absolutely wear my Grizzlies sweatshirt around campus with pride,” Cooper said.
Growing up with the Grizzlies has been a rocky road. There have been ups and downs. There have been dark days without playoff games in April and May. But the Grizzlies have fought every night, and the people of Memphis recognize that blue-collar mentality, because they can identify with that themselves. And the Grizzlies provide a sense of hope not only as a team chasing a ring, but they provide hope for the city.
“To me, the team is a microcosm of how successful Memphis could be,” Kyle Proctor, senior at the U of M, said.
Because of this instilled sense of support for the Grizz, many feel their support for the team will remain during rebuilding years and the end of this successful era. Some students who have watched the “Grit and Grind” era story unfold over the years believe Memphis should stick with their guns, while others believe it’s time to move on to be successful.
“I think the Grizzlies need to work on some new players. Yes we have the Core 4 and they are great. But if two get hurt we are always out of luck. I think we need to build up some other men so they can be ready to take a leader position,” Schweizer said.
Laura Spradlin, Memphis native and now sophomore and basketball player for Ouachita Baptist University, wasn’t quite ready to give up on the foundation the Core 4 have when this interview occurred. With Zach Randolph’s departure, surely she is disappointed.
“I think we should stick to the “Grit and Grind” era. It's kind of become what defines Memphis basketball the last few years and what makes it so special and different from other teams,” Spradlin said.
Many Memphians grew up with the Grizzlies, and when it was time for college, that support for the team continued whether they stayed in Memphis or went to school elsewhere. Even if the Grizzlies don’t win a ring, they have won the hearts of this generation, and hopefully those after it.
“At this point, you can't help but support the Grizz whether they are in rebuilding mode or not. The Grizz have a strong foundation and they care about Memphis just as much as we care about them. I'm forever a Grizz fan,” Broyles said.