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Mike Conley and Me

A tribute to Mike Conley and a short story of how he started a domino effect in my life.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

It all started when I was 7 years old.

I’d been to other Memphis Grizzlies games before, but this one just hit different and really ignited my Grizzlies fandom. They were playing the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Before the game, I was a Spurs “fan,” but I only really liked them because my dad got me the DVD of their championship season, and they were awesome in NBA Live 2003.

Silly, 7-year old Parker.

In that game though, Tim Duncan sprained his ankle early in the quarter and I was upset that my favorite player was out of the game. However, something clicked. The Grizzlies started playing well, and ultimately won the game. More importantly though, they just won over a new fan and I haven’t looked back since.

I wasn’t a normal kid when it came to my Grizzlies fandom. I’d have notebooks and Word documents of my own game previews like the ones in the Commercial Appeal, pages of mock standings and statistical leaders (with Mike Miller as the NBA’s leading scorer, obviously), and fake box scores with numbers that honestly didn’t add up.

My dad and I went to the first three playoff series in Grizzlies history. In 2004, we got to witness history in the Pyramid for the Grizzlies’ first-round bout with the San Antonio Spurs. One of my most painful Grizzlies memories, to this day, is the 3 Dirk Nowitzki hit off a tipped rebound to win the game.

When the Grizzlies weren’t good, pre-teen Parker loved the idea of speculation and defended his Memphis Grizzlies to death. I remember having a 15-minute conversation on the radio with whoever hosted the post-game show about what the Grizzlies should do if they couldn’t get Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. I lived on the message boards, posting all this trade and draft speculation — basically what I do now. I would also argue with classmates that said the Grizzlies stunk, calling them out for being bandwagon fans — funny story: I used to call this the “birdwagon.”

In high school and early college, I became an active tweeter about Grizzlies basketball, my main platform in expressing my thoughts on the team. In the second semester of my freshman year, I had just changed majors away from pre-pharmacy and didn’t know what I wanted to do. At the time, I was subscribed to FanSided Network’s Beale Street Bears on my e-mail, and one day, I found a message saying they were looking for writers.

It seemed like a cool thing to do every so often. I love the Grizzlies, and I thought I was a decent writer at the time — I wasn’t. I applied and ultimately got the gig, writing a few things here and there as I was finishing up school.

Then, that summer, everything changed.

After Mike Conley signed his record-breaking deal, the Grizzlies held an exclusive press conference for MVP season-ticket holders, so I went down for it to FedExForum with my cousin and one of our friends.

Once the press conference was over, they held an autograph line for Conley for him. When it was my turn in line, I followed the ole “shooters shoot” mantra. I told him I just started working for this blog and that it’d be an honor if he was my first interview. You know, he’s an NBA player, way more important than a 19-year old kid. He could’ve just given me the old “yeah, yeah, that sounds cool.” However, he introduced me to Jason Wallace, who works on the Grizzlies’ PR team. He told me to get him in contact with my boss, and we can get something arranged.

I was super pumped. I had the chance to interview Mike Conley as a 19-year old kid. It was a dream.

I unfortunately couldn’t arrange this meeting, but it did get my foot in the door to attend the pre-season media day for the 2016-2017 media day.

And that’s where I got started.

Because Mike Conley led me over to Jason Wallace, I’ve gotten to experience so many cool things throughout my college and writing career. They’re simply opportunities I’ll always be grateful for and memories I’ll always cherish.

At two media days, I’ve gotten to talk to Chandler Parsons about going to an Adele concert and how he thinks he could fill that “LeBron” role in Fizdale’s offense — lol. I asked Wade Baldwin about playing under Tony Allen, Mike Conley, and Vince Carter. I had a conversation with Dillon Brooks about the chip on his shoulder from winning Pac-12 Player of the Year over Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz and still being picked 45th.

At a Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM) event with Chandler Parsons, I got to talk to him about Oxford and Ole Miss.

At games I’ve covered, I’ve experienced so many cool things. I was in a media scrum Brad Stevens, in the same locker room as LeBron James and Lonzo Ball, and I was covering the game when the infamous “Brooks Fiasco” happened.

In addition, I’ve met so many cool people within the media and the Grizzlies organization throughout my writing career. I’ve gotten to meet Geoff Calkins and Ron Tillery, whose work I’ve read since I was 7 years old. I’ve met super cool people like Joe Mullinax, Devin Walker, Peter Edmiston, David Cobb, Alexis Morgan, Omari Sankofa, and Anthony Sain. If it wasn’t for meeting Chris Vernon and Jon Roser and listening to their podcasts, I wouldn’t have been inspired to start my own.

On a personal level, I’ve met friends that I’ll have for years to come. I sought out Nathan Chester, who was writing phenomenal FanPosts on this very site, to join me on my website — leading me to find a great, reliable friend and brother in Christ. I’ve also became good friends with Brandon Abraham, Connor Dunning, and Justin Lewis — all awesome pals that hype me up on my work and give me words of wisdom on life as well. I also found a mentorship opportunity with young, up-and-coming Grizzlies blogger Eric Lentz — who’s the most hard-working, brilliant teenager you’ll ever meet.

If it wasn’t for that interaction with Mike Conley, I don’t even know how far my writing “career” would’ve progressed. I may not have had the opportunity to join this great blog network, where I’ve grown even more as a blogger, a podcaster, and a person.

Over the years, Memphis has gotten to see Mike Conley’s brilliance both on and off the basketball court. While he’s the Conductor on the court, he’s passion and presence for the community and philanthropy is inspiring — as he’s simply a role model not just for young basketball players, but for anyone.

As people typically say, you don’t know the significance or impact on one interaction with someone. It could be life-changing. My press conference interaction with Mike Conley led to opportunities I couldn’t even dream of and to friendships I’ll hopefully have for life. It’s helped me grow in all aspects of life, and it’s instilled confidence that I’ve never possessed before.

So, if you’re reading this, Mike, thank you for getting me here today. You really changed my life.

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