When I was growing up, my dad never missed a single one of my basketball, baseball or soccer games. Not a single one (heck, he’d probably try to come to my intramural games now if we consistently lived in the same city and I’d let him). Now to be fair, he couldn’t have missed many of my basketball games in particular because he was often my coach in those early years (I’ll never forget him jumping and running across the court like Jim Velvano in the 1983 NCAA national championship after I made a game-winning shot when I was five-years-old).
But even when he wasn’t the coach, he was always there. And he was and always has been there because my father truly appreciates a specific quantity that most people do not properly prioritize—time. Time is not a quantity that can be regained or bought again once it is lost. In reality, it’s a beautiful yet temporary gift that we can choose to use and cherish while we have it. And for my father, he chose to spend that time with me, knowing that the endless memories made with me were far more valuable than any other use of that time ever could be. It was about the journey, not the destination, and how we shared each individual step of that journey together.
He embodies Jim Croce, one of his favorite singers when he was younger.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
’Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
You can’t save time in a bottle, however. After all, Croce died in a plane crash at 30. You can only choose to properly cherish it in the way that you see fit before it’s finally gone forever, like a flower quickly fading—here today and gone tomorrow.
This is the reality for not just fathers and sons, but also for even fandom. Specifically, this is the reality for fans of the “GRZ NXT GEN” Memphis Grizzlies.
In the Grizzlies’ last game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a realization occurred to me as I watched Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. do their spectacular impersonation of the infamous Mike Conley-Marc Gasol pick-and-pop in the closing minutes of the game: I had rarely ever been so enthralled watching an individual group play the game of basketball. The realization struck me like a bolt of lightning when Morant froze two defenders with a half-spin dribble move before finally driving hard to the rim, only to kick it out to Jackson for a three that you knew was going in before it even left his hand.
For a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies, this is pure, unadulterated joy captured in a 12-second clip. A jaw-dropping (Ja-dropping?) and captivating preview of what could possibly be in store for the Grizzlies over the next few years. There seems to be no limit to what this young core could achieve together, and optimism for the franchise as a whole has simply never been higher.
But make no mistake about it: this emotional jubilation that surrounds this team will not last forever.
To be sure, there will eventually come a day in the coming years when the honeymoon phase for this exciting and enthralling Grizzlies core comes to an unfortunate end. There will likely come a day when Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. come up short in the playoffs, prompting the same national commentators (and yes, this core of the Grizzlies will receive consistent national attention in the coming years) who questioned whether Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could win a championship together to do the same to them.
And regardless of how much team success the Grizzlies have over the next five or so years, there will inevitably come a day when the league’s big markets come knocking at the door for both Jackson and Morant in free agency. If and when that happens, it could possibly spell the end of this new generation of Grizzlies.
Now before you light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks for suggesting such a heinous thing, there’s a reason why I’m definitely looking entirely too far down the road: It’s to reflect that nothing will last forever. Whether because of age, injury, trade or even personal decisions, there will inevitably come a day when this new iteration of the Memphis Grizzlies will fade into memory just as the Grit ‘N’ Grind era before it did. And hopefully, they will win multiple championships together before that happens.
But for now, just cherish this time that Memphis gets to have with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke among others. Cherish their youth, talent and capacity for greatness while never taking for granted the stroke of luck it took for this special group to come together. Enjoy the journey with this group and don’t worry for a second about what the destination will eventually be.
Because I would give anything to return to the simplistic joy of being crushed by my dad in a hug after an inconsequential yet still memorable jump shot at five-years-old. I know that he would too. Yet I know that we both truly cherished that simple and wonderful time together and live with no regrets even all of these years later.
Here’s to hoping that the people of Memphis will be able to say the same about this special group on the Memphis Grizzlies.