The Memphis Grizzlies are in the playoffs. You should support them and everything they are for the following reasons.
1. The Grizzlies are the NBA's WitSec success story. They lived a fine, well-organized life in the shining city by the Pacific. They had a wife, and kids, and a great job and even a pet Bryant Reeves. Then they borrowed money from the wrong people, got in a little over their head and did some things. Some things they aren't proud of. Some things that got them in the Witness Protection Program. Now they beat people up for money in front of a raging crowd of strangers in Memphis, and have for over a decade now. It's not perfect, but it's better than letting the Triads catch up with you.
2. The Grizzlies do not play ugly basketball. They play sluggish, brutal, cheekbone-shattering, spectacularly ugly basketball. The Grizzlies sit 29th out of 30 teams in pace and open the playoffs against the airshow L.A. Clippers. This happened six days ago when they last met:
There will be seven games of Zach Randolph doing this (and worse) to Blake Griffin, and there will be no fouls called because Zach Randolph scares the living daylights out of everyone.
3. Marc Gasol plays 35 minutes of professional basketball a night and is still kinda fat. If ever a player and Memphis deserved each other strictly from a metabolic point of view, it is Marc Gasol and Memphis, a town where several municipal buildings and county schools are built entirely of savory rib slabs. Gasol has played consistently every year in Memphis, so don't knock the postgame ham smoothie until you have tried it for yourself.
4. Mike Conley is one of the few NBA players you can get on your debit card.
Mike Conley's not really sure if you should be spending that much money on honey-glazed almonds.
Conley also inspired one of the greatest one-man sustained splutters of flowing rage ever captured on the internet when he was signed to a $45 million contract extension in 2010. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs the past two years with Mike Conley playing point guard for the Grizzlies. (Note: Mr. Moore later apologized in grand fashion.)
5. The fanbase. Memphis doesn't really have a whole lot going on sports-wise, or really in any direction. The course of Memphis history runs something like this:
- more cotton
- Stax records
- that time someone killed MLK there
- RIP Memphis Showboats
- The Firm
- Hustle and Flow is released
- Three Six Mafia wins an Oscar
Aside from John Calipari's tenure at Memphis, this is pretty much a complete timeline of the city's history. It has no other professional sports teams. Besides FedEx and the local college basketball team, Memphis doesn't really have a whole lot else going on in terms of unifying, positive local rally points besides "We're not Nashville." And remember that no matter how uninhabitable Memphis may seem, they're not the hollow cultural mortuary that is Nashville. You want to ride with the River City, if only because you'd rather have the city of Memphis as a friend rather than an enemy.
P.S. You also have a cousin in Memphis, because everyone has a cousin in Memphis. You probably don't let them borrow money, but they're a cousin nonetheless.
6. Zach "Zach" Randolph
Even Jack Nicholson -- a man who Hunter S. Thompson called a friend -- is baffled by the cryptomythical figure of Zach Randolph. He is an NBA All-Star who appears to have never picked up a weight in his life, and can barely clear a doorstep with his vertical leap. To watch Randolph play in the low post is to watch a traffic barrier with arms attempt to play the game of basketball; to watch him play against Blake Griffin is to consider that there may be different gravity settings in the NBA, and that Randolph's is turned all the way up while Griffin's has been turned off completely.
And yet he produces, snagging rebounds and points in the paint like the meanest old man at your local Y. (He even wears the same headband.) He does all this in the city best equipped to accept him for what he is: a member of the infamous Portland Jailblazers, a man who has woken up with a cop's gun drawn on him and his female guest, a man who threatened to beat Kendrick Perkins' ass because "I don't play" and the creator of what may be the single worst possession in the history of professional basketball.
That same man, who has not had life-altering brain surgery or a religious conversion, is leading the Grizzlies into the playoffs, and doing so brilliantly because only Memphis could be strange enough to make a player like Zach Randolph ever make sense.
8. The mascot is geographically incorrect. But it's appropriate in spirit if you consider the local passion for dip.