2020 has been a difficult year for just about everyone.
We’re not all in the same boat. Families have different issues than single people during a pandemic. People of different races have different levels of ability to understand the pain and exhaustion that feeds the necessary social justice movement that continues in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others in addition to the shooting of Jacob Blake. So many are suffering in so many ways it can be near impossible to find the good in any given day.
Yet despite the fact we are all navigating the sadness and anger these last eight months of the cursed calendar year 2020, we long to find silver linings in dark clouds. On this 901 Day in Memphis, there is much to be thankful for with regard to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Like the idea of the day itself - Memphis celebrating what makes the city so special - the reason for feeling a sense of gratitude toward the Grizzlies has to do with how well the organization and its members represent the 901. From race relations to education and everything inbetween, the city’s NBA franchise pursues multiple avenues to positive change.
It shines through in the team’s continued commitment to community service. Whether they are helping at a local elementary school or working with kids at a free skills camp, the Grizzlies players and coaches are investing in the youth of the city in a way that should be admired. There are long-term positives is such acts, of course - a young 5 or 6-year old interacting with Jaren Jackson Jr. likely makes a life-long fan of that child. But that doesn’t change the fact that the good deed was done, and the Grizzlies franchise prioritized making those moments of connection to improve the lives of folks throughout the city.
It is also evident in the actions of Taylor Jenkins in particular. He has helped with various charitable causes and drives for numerous needs in and around Memphis, but what he did in the NBA’s Bubble in Orlando really is evidence of one of the best kinds of modern Memphian. Jenkins is an outsider, a transplant in a majority Black city whose own life experience surely differs from that of the players he coaches. But he has taken the time to educate himself and others on racial injustice in our society, and he has listened to the voices of the young men that he is responsible for developing professionally. When you go beyond the X’s and O’s and focus on the people that help make up the schemes you draw up, you get a level of trust that cannot be generated through victories.
He is invested in educating himself, and being part of the solution instead of just pointing out the problem. He responds to the vulnerability and concerns of his team and acts.
Finally, Taylor Jenkins joins the media availability and begins with a statement on standing up for racial equality. The Grizzlies watched the documentary 13th last night and had a Roundtable discussion afterward. The team also talked to the Memphis police chief. pic.twitter.com/fz7Y61LdWj— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) July 21, 2020
There are so many examples that they are too numerous to list them all here. Ja Morant sharing ways to support locally owned black businesses. The Grizzlies Foundation and the mentoring work they do with kids. The franchise’s push to get folks more involved in having their voices heard via voting. On and on they go, both as a unit and individually, participating in their civic responsibility to help build up the city. While there are some that have Memphis connections beyond their place of work, most members of the Grizzlies are in the Bluff City for their job. Yet it is important to them to give back to the community that supports them so well. It matters not just today but everyday that the city is being developed.
It is of course wonderful that the team overachieved this season and that the future looks so bright. Ja Morant highlights and Brandon Clarke/Jaren Jackson Jr. frontcourt day dreams are a blast to share. But in a year like 2020, with so much going wrong, looking beyond the court and finding all the good this team does to make things right for Memphis is cause for giving thanks. It’s inspiring - today, donate your time and/or treasure and look for an organization like the Mid-South Food Bank to give to. Volunteer to serve those in need, or to be a mentor/friend for a kid who feels they don’t have enough people that care. For even in a year where many have a claim to it being the worst of their lives, there are people struggling more than us. And they need our help.
No one represents that call to provide for others as an organization like the Memphis Grizzlies. That’s part of why the franchise is here in the first place - to bring people together and lift up a community. They are a shining light of the betterment that can come from people that understand their platform and are willing to use it for good.
There’s no place on Earth like Memphis, Tennessee...and it is well worth working to help the city grow. Happy 901 Day - be thankful for your NBA team leading the way in making Memphis even better, and take a moment to enjoy the most beautiful land in the world.