Memphis Stylze : How Memphis’ Soul, Grit and Grizzlies Wouldn’t Let Me Stay Out Da’ Game
You can love a place for years and then find yourself needing to leave it in a hurry. It happened to me when an unexpected setback left me suddenly jobless and uncertain about the future. Then the solution to those problems involved a major move. If you’ve ever left a place you loved for a job opportunity, a pressing obligation, or any other reason that might prompt a relocation, you’ve probably experienced the pangs of homesickness, of missing family, friends, and favorite places in the city you left. And when the place you loved and left is Memphis, you will find yourself missing your NBA team, your Grizz family, the whole Memphis Grizzlies community.
I was born and raised in Memphis and, like many Memphis natives, I always have and always will love the Bluff City and the game of basketball. Coming back to Memphis recharges my soul. It’s no coincidence that there’s forever a place in my heart for the city and its rich basketball tradition.
We Never Sleep: Sunshine State
After leaving town for college, graduating, and getting married, my wife and I ended up in a place significantly farther from Memphis and my beloved Grizzlies. We lived in North Florida, where there was no NBA team, and the only pro-sports on cable were terrible NFL matchups involving the Jaguars, and something called the “TB Lightning.” On the rare nights the Memphis Grizzlies had a nationally televised appearance against a west coast team like the Lakers or Clippers, it might not tip off until after 10:30 pm Eastern time on a weeknight so you really had to ask yourself how many Rudy Gay iso’s you wanted to watch just to feel completely exhausted the entire next day at work.
With few opportunities to watch the Grizzlies live, and only at much worse timeslots than the regional broadcasts of Taco Bell Lightning games, that time in my life was the launching point for my first foray into blogging about the Memphis Grizzlies and the NBA. I missed feeling connected to my city and my team, and writing about the Grizzlies and the Association helped me maintain a sense of comradery with others who shared the love of the game and specifically a love for the team grinding it out in Memphis.
When the Smoke Clears: The Return to Memphis
After a year in Florida, we moved back to Memphis and I completely dropped the basketblogging. I didn’t miss it too much, because I was back to being around friends and family, I got to see a lot more of the Grit and Grind squads at FedExForum and watch parties alike, and through mutual fandom and devotion to the Grizzlies, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known. I cherished getting to be back in Memphis for several reasons, and not too far down list was the Grizz fam’s shared experience of watching the Grizzlies rack up wins while living in a city that was electrified and captivated by the new playoff heights of teams lead by Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and the franchise’s stabilizing force and star point guard himself, Keyon Dooling.
I’d always loved Memphis, and I’d always loved the Grizzlies since they came to Memphis when I was a seventh grader. Returning to Memphis as a young professional made my love for the city and its NBA franchise fiercer and stronger than ever. Those years of my life and those Grizzlies seasons are the front gates to so many good memories and good friendships. Then as life would have it, following the 2014-15 Grizzlies season (the Grizzlies were really good- remember they stomped the Blazers in the first round and Mike Conley and his shattered face pushed the Warriors to six games?), my wife and I found ourselves loading up our dogs and all the possessions we could squeeze into a U-Haul truck as we embarked on a move to our new, tiny, overpriced apartment in the Washington DC area.
District of Unbreakables
After the move to DC, I felt more homesick than ever. I missed the life I had in Memphis, I missed family and friends, and I missed ZBo, TA, Mike and Marc and the rest of the Grizzlies I’d come to know and love. Before too long, I dove right back into blogging about the Grizzlies for a site that was hiring unpaid bloggers, and after lurking in the background online for years, I actually started interacting with and occasionally Memphis-checkin strangers on Grizzlies twitter. It was awesome and I regret none of it.
That Grizzlies blog site I wrote for at that time was far from perfect, but with so little guidance, there was also little oversight meaning I could write just about whatever I wanted: fun stuff, weird stuff, stuff with sizzling hot-takes, and stuff with embedded YouTube videos of Vince Carter dunking on people a third his age. People from back home in Memphis as well as Grizzlies fans I still have never met IRL started reading and talking to me about this crazy, exciting, sometimes depressing, sometimes fatalistic, but always entertaining ride of Memphis Grizzlies fandom. When I could watch the Grizzlies on League Pass, hear the familiar voices of Pete and Brevin on the broadcast, and write about it and share that ish on the twitter webs, the distance between me and Memphis didn’t feel so drastic or disheartening anymore.
Choices: The Setup
By the end of the first season with that site, it all went south in a major way and burned me out on writing. That particular site became more and more about forcing advertisements into blog posts and generating traffic with formulaically wack clickbait material. It afforded me an opportunity to write about the team I love and share that across platforms, but it was certainly time to move on.
I stopped writing for a while after that experience, then found a better way to blog about the Grizzlies. Shout out and thank you to fellow Memphis Grizzlies blogging alumnus Christian Dudley who opened the door that lead me to the Blu3 World Order site following the 2015-16 season. I was still pretty burnt out and had a serious writing block and only wrote one piece after that season, but I was thankful that Sain gave me an opportunity to write for a site that exists for Memphis fans and not for the sole purpose of cranking out mindless drivel chasing quotas and clickbait mandates.
The past couple years I’ve been busy shooting my shot in my professional and academic life and have had some cool opportunities, although I’ve remained mostly missing in action from the Memphis hoops blogging scene. Writing original thoughts about sportsball from a fresh perspective can be a struggle. Sometimes it can be difficult finding words that you feel are worth writing worth adding to what may already seem like a very noisy and crowded space. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find your own voice. It’s easy to overthink it and forget why you wanted to do it in the first place.
“You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is...to write. Not to think.” -Finding Forrester
On upside of writer’s block, the Grizzlies were so trash last season I had almost no desire to write about them or even watch them try to play basketball too much. Can we be honest about that now? The tank tactics worked because we got a good draft pick, assuming the Draft does not go disastrously terrible *removes hyperlink to Hasheem Thabeet’s basketball reference page*, but that season was ugly. Moving forward, now that stretch of upscale G-League basketball is mercifully behind us, we can get hyped with anticipation and sizzling hot takes on what the Notorious B.I.GM Chris Wallace and company will do with that fourth pick. Right now is that special time when we as Grizzlies fans can run with unbridled excitement and optimism for the future of the franchise (tempered by cynicism rooted in the Grizzlies’ past experiences).
The Real Ones: The Most Known Unknowns of Grizz Nation
I live in Knoxville now, still a good trip down I-40 from the home of Grizzlies basketball, but considerably closer to Hoop City than I have been in recent years. My heart is always in Memphis, and hopelessly tethered to the Grizzlies for better or worse. I bring all this up to talk about the invaluable voices and perspectives of the actual fanbase and the broader Grizz family. It’s as important now as it has ever been for long-term and/or die-hard Grizz fans from every walk of life to weigh in and jump in and keep the party rocking with other Grizzlies fans.
I’m not going to knock unacquainted people who come to Memphis from elsewhere and get paid to cover and promote the Grizzlies (or Tigers) when they clearly haven’t followed the local team for as long as many of us. Perhaps they care more about other franchises, or view the Memphis Grizzlies as a stepping stone to another gig, or came to Memphis with some other individual motivation that serves some other end. I’m not going to put them on blast for that because that’s their business, and kudos to them for getting paid to cover and promote an NBA team. That’s a super dope job to get to do for any NBA team. I mean, if could get paid to write about or promote the sorryass Suns or other NBA laughingstock, I would go for it. In that scenario, who among us wouldn’t take the paycheck, and quietly root for the Grizzlies and only diss the Suns from several generic sounding pro-Grizzlies burner accounts?
However, there’s still something critically important to be said for independent media that can really deliver the goods when it comes to the style, local connection, and authenticity that most fans love and appreciate. Outlets and sites like Blu3 World Order fill an important role in the Memphis sports community and fandom, and with the Blu3 World Order crew firing on all cylinders, I’m happy and honored to be back in the mix. So here’s to all the real ones out there, the ones who do it for love of Memphis and for love of the game. Memphis forever and ever. Amen.