Remember David Fizdale's epic "take that for data" post-game rant? Well, that was the last year we've seen the Grizzlies in the playoffs. It was the end of franchise-record seven post-season berths from '11 to '17.
The never-back-down philosophy shaped one of the most unique teams of the decade - the Grit and Grind Grizzlies. And whatever anyone says, they had a great run together. There wasn't a living soul who didn't appreciate them. The Grizzlies were all-in, just like their fans.
The people in Memphis love their team, love the individual players, and make them a part of their family
Lionel Hollins, The Undefeated
That's the thing with small-market teams. The atmosphere around them is much more family-oriented. It's much more honest, simply because it's mostly within the boundaries of their community, and players buy into that. Not only because they're contracts obligate them to do it. They simply fit, both as basketball players and as people. There's no better way of describing it.
The thing is, some NBA players are simply made for small-market teams. In the same way some are born to be in the spotlight. It's mostly personality-based because let's face it, playing in Memphis isn't comparable to playing in LA or New York. The latter is much more global, and a lot more challenges come with it. But some players love it. In fact, some players pursue it.
Remember Carmelo's move to the Knicks? Or KD signing with the Nets? Or Kawhi and Paul George joining the Clippers? You see the pattern; NBA superstardom goes hand in hand with NBA's big market teams. That's why Memphis loves their guys. The same goes for every other small-market franchise. There's nothing fake about it. No hidden intentions behind their actions. Just an honest relationship between the player and the organization.
There's also a feeling of appreciation towards players who actually choose to spend a significant amount of time with such teams - especially towards star-level tier of players. Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph all were stars in their way, and they all chose to spend their prime years with the Grizzlies. Hence such love for them from Grizz' fans.
Whether Memphis maximized the Grit and Grind era is up for debate. They peaked in '13 when they reached the WCF. But the consistency they showed and their all-in type of mentality is all you can ask for from your team. So if you ask people from Memphis, most of them will tell you the same thing: that was the golden era of their franchise.
However, after it came to an end, a lot of uncertainties occurred for the Grizzlies. They've embarked on the rebuilding route, which is the last thing you want to do as a small-market team. Because let's face it, everybody knew they weren't going to get a big-time player through the free agency. Nevertheless, they did find their diamond in a rough through the draft, after they selected Ja Morant second overall in '19. According to Zach Randolph, he's just the type of player and person suited for Memphis.
He's just like me. Blue-collar player. Honest. Humble. Heart like a giant. He gives back. The people of Memphis see that Ja is just like them, too: a hard worker, where nothing's been given to him. This city is the best place for him. For his personality
Zach Randolph, Bleacher Report
There's a new sheriff in town, in the form of a 6-3 point guard from Murray State. Judging solely on his rookie year performance, Randolph is right about Morant. The guy can play, no questions about it. But even more importantly, the guy fits, personality-wise, approach-wise, mentality-wise. He's just what the doctor ordered for the Grizzlies. And judging by everything we've seen so far, here's here to stay. At least I hope so. Grizzlies' fans deserve it.