The brawling Grizzlies’ bad boy narrative can cure NBA tedium.
An exclusive claim to hoops dominance, divisional beefs, or a general lack of respect were all things that BA rivalries used to be about. But in a time when players frequently switch teams, enter the league as childhood friends, and almost ever play defense against one another, it has been difficult to hold onto those grudges. The Memphis Grizzlies are currently the lone team that keeps the other teams on edge. Everyone abhors them.
Their bad boy story begins with a traditional betrayal. Andre Iguodala was transferred to Memphis as part of a three-team transaction in the summer of 2019. Iguodala is the epitome of an NBA glue guy; a past finals MVP who, in spite of his older age, is still useful as a player-coach and critical contributor. However, when he refused to take on the same role with the struggling Memphis Grizzlies and failed to even show up at their facility, team management reportedly decided to either buy out his $17 million deal or sell him to a playoff contender. Unsurprisingly, Iguodala’s new teammates quickly reacted angrily to his stance, thumping their chests when Memphis shocked everyone and passed his former team, Golden State, in the Western Conference standings. Dillon Brooks of Memphis stated, “We all had the vision.” He did not, which is ideal. Let him to carry out his duties by sending him back to the Warriors.
With his aggressive style that frequently crosses the line, Brooks in particular has become well-known this season. Following a missed layup, he rolled into Donovan Mitchell’s leg and punched the Cavs guard in the crotch, setting up a bench-clearing altercation that resulted in his suspension last month. Mitchell responded, “That’s just who he is,” when asked if Brooks’ foul was a cheap shot.
The Memphis crowd yelled on Morant to “sit back out” during his rusty first game back following a month-long health leave last season. As a result, the Grizzlies don’t even spare their own supporters any kindness.
Usually, when someone criticizes me, it makes me more determined to prove them wrong, he stated. Yet, the supporters’ comments tonight were hurtful. In the Grizzlies’ “bad boy” trajectory, it might have been the point at which they decided to embrace turmoil without looking back.
The Grizzlies were committed to starting and ending the game with cheering supporters when they faced the Lakers on the road earlier this year. When a courtside spectator retorted that Brooks couldn’t guard LeBron James, the game was ignited. A heated argument between the fan and Ja’s father, Tee, was also sparked. Grizzlies center Steven Adams, Brooks, and the other players made a beeline towards the spectator during a play break. Yet, upon closer inspection, the spectator was just as big and annoying as the players.
The fan in question turned out to be none other than Shannon Sharpe, the imposing former NFL star who is now a TV sports debater and the leader of the LeBron James fan group. The league office undoubtedly had unpleasant memories of the Malice at the Palace when NBA players got into fights with paying customers, but at least the Grizzlies’ altercation was with the establishment’s biggest fan. Moreover, Sharpe, who had been briefly ejected from his seat, was obliged to make an on-air apology for his role in the verbal altercation as the Grizzlies again pounded their chests. A typical pedestrian such as him? Brooks giggled. He ought to have returned to the game sooner. But this is LA. The Grizzlies were criticized for “Wearing out Their Welcome” and generally being “Annoying” in the news.
Memphis residents don’t put on a fake demeanor. It essentially captures who the club has been since leaving Vancouver in the early 2000s and shrugging off all of the Canada Nice (not even the Ontario-born Brooks, aka Memphis Bill Laimbeer, hews to the type). Zach Randolph, a low-post tough, branded himself as a bully’s bully and a defensive nuisance during the 2010s, which are widely known as their “Grit and Grind” era. Chris Paul was struck in the head by Tony Allen, and center Marc Gasol didn’t think twice to elbow his taller older brother. Even so, those Grizzlies weren’t precisely despised because they never posed a real threat to win the title.
The Grizzlies only advanced past the conference semifinals once in their streak of seven straight appearances in the postseason from 2011 to 2017.
The contemporary Grizzlies players are not merely strong. Morant, who is arguably the most dynamic player in the game besides Giannis Antetokounmpo, is the team’s leader. They are only 24 years old on average. Always getting in the way, the defending champion Warriors are just about to cross the cut line for the playoffs. The Grizzlies might have to play Golden State again in the first round of the playoffs this year if the situation persists and Memphis is unable to pass Denver.
It’s doubtful that anyone who saw the Celtics, the Bad Boy Pistons, or the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe in their prime ever envisaged the day when there would only be one rivalry game in professional basketball that was worth watching: the Grizzlies vs. Warriors. Runaway scoring has replaced the blatant animosity and resentment that characterized those bygone years. While hot streaks undoubtedly have their allure since they are large, buzzy, and cause people to sit up straight, they don’t incite animosity in the soul in the same way.
This is just to say that it’s plausible that the league miscast the Grizzlies. They play every game with a malice, and they even taunt their own fans. Nonetheless, they are more of an antihero than a straight-up villain despite being an NBA club that actually means something. Only that, they never have decent motives.
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