Close your eyes. No, seriously close your eyes and envision Grizzlies’ seasons past.
It’s 2015, the Memphis Grizzlies just beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs and postgame the FedExForum plaza and Beale Street is packed from end to end as fans do the Cupid Shuffle as if it’s one big family reunion.
You remember big plays from the game, such as a Courtney Lee three, Zach Randolph going to work on the low block, or maybe Tony Allen making a big stop and got the crowd on their feet. Keep digging in that memory bank to hear the hi-hats and bass increase in volume as “Whoop That Trick,” the anthem for the “Grit and Grind” era Grizzlies, rings out through FedExForum as fans wave their growl towels and sing along as Zach Randolph leads the Grizzlies against the rival Los Angeles Clippers as he and Blake Griffin go head to head. The “Grit and Grind” era was a fun time to be Grizzlies fan as they achieved their longest period of sustained success making the playoffs seven consecutive seasons.
During this period, it felt as if the Grizzlies had finally arrived on a national level going from a Cinderella team in 2011 when they upset the #1 seed San Antonio Spurs to a team with national brand behind the “Grit and Grind” mantra that was built upon a Memphis vs. Errrybody underdog mentality representative of the blue collar city they called home. Sadly every fairy tale has to come to an end, for the Memphis Grizzlies the end was the 2017-18 season as they missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. The Core Four of Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were forever immortalized in the city of Memphis for their success but it was time for the franchise to move on as the core elements of their playoff runs were gradually shipped off to new endeavors.
Let the rebuild begin, as the Grizzlies hold records that haven’t been seen in Memphis since the late 2000’s. Two NBA draft lottery appearances later and we arrive at the beginning of the 2019-20 season. The Grizzlies are in year three of a “rebuild” after the franchise’s most successful run in franchise history and began the season with a first year General Manager in Zach Kleiman, a first year Head Coach in Taylor Jenkins, and a young core centered around first round picks Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke.
The expectations were low with many “experts” expecting the team to find itself at the bottom of the West and in the lottery again next season. Then to everyone’s surprise, the young Grizzlies team led by Rookie of the Year front runner Ja Morant took the NBA by storm and have positioned themselves in the 8th seed heading into a sprint for the 2020 NBA Playoffs years ahead of schedule.
Open your eyes.
It’s the Remix, baby!!!
Instead of a team filled with veterans that play at a slow pace, the Grizzlies are now a young team, soundtracked by “Who Run It” by Three 6 Mafia along with newer rappers such as Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo, that loves to get out and run. This run won’t take place with the “Grindhouse” as the back drop thanks to COVID-19 but the vibes remain the same as it’s still Memphis vs. Errrybody from 823 miles away in the Disney Bubble. The Grizzlies’ destiny is in their hands as they control whether or not they hold on to the 8th seed in the West. They have plenty of detractors hoping for them to fail in hopes of seeing other matchups in the first round versus the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s fine with the Grizzlies, as phrases such as “hungry” and “not satisfied” have been staples in recent media appearances as they prepare for the tough journey ahead.
In their short time together, this young Grizzlies unit has come to embody the city it calls home. Memphis is a place populated by blue collar people who work their nine to five jobs putting their noses to the grindstone working for everything they get. The city of Memphis is as used to getting counted out as they are used to the underdog narrative that has been bestowed on their NBA franchise. While the team will have to socially distance itself from Memphis, you’d best believe that their Grind City family is in Memphis cheering as loud as ever in their homes as once again the Memphis Grizzlies and the city of Memphis have a chance to rise above expectations.
Starting Friday, there are no guarantees as the seeding games. The playoffs and the off-season on the horizon are all filled with uncertainty. Although the Grizzlies are ahead of schedule this season, remember they are still in the early stages of the rebuilding process. Grizzlies fans, sit back and enjoy the fruit from the struggles of the past two seasons. The rebuild will continue after this season as the Western Conference only gets tougher from here on out as teams return to full strength.
Rapper Pop Smoke’s most recent album title Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon is a perfect representation of where the Grizzlies are right now as they have announced their presence amongst the stars this season but are still working towards their eventual goal of the Moon (the NBA Championship Trophy). The Grizzlies are slowly being built for this long term battle. That doesn’t mean this short-term run won’t be beneficial - or fun as hell.