Story of a Late Blooming NBA Fan May 10, 2011Posted by Matt in basketball.
Tags: fandom, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder, playoffs
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Growing up in Arkansas, I never had more than a passing interest when it came to NBA basketball. We didn’t have a team anywhere near us and with the stellar Nolan Richardson-led Razorback teams of the 80’s and 90’s, there was no reason for my close interest to extend beyond the college game. Sure, I watched the greats: Bird and Magic and Jordan, but outside of their heroic feats, it truly did not matter to me.
In 2001 the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis, but by that time my apathy for the NBA was firmly set and, though they were relatively close to my central Arkansas hometown, it mattered little. A few years later, in 2004, circumstances changed and we found ourselves moving to the Memphis area and my interest was initially piqued, particularly since the team was winning at that time, so I began to occasionally watch with a cursory interest, but never truly jumped on the bandwagon. Soon their fortunes fell and the team became a veritable laughingstock of the league, where wins were few and far between and fans were hard to find. Thus, in keeping with my bandwagon jumping, my interest drifted to the University of Memphis basketball team with little care for the Grizzlies.
It was probably about two years ago that my NBA fanhood first began to really blossom. My friend Chance, a former University of Memphis football player and sports fanatic, and I began getting together, either at each other’s homes or out at places like Buffalo Wild Wings, during the NBA playoffs to watch games and visit with each other. There we would sit with beers in hand and he would talk of the game with such a deep affection, explaining the intricacies of the teams and the superb nature of their athleticism, that I could not help but become a fan.
Last season the Grizzlies fielded a decent team, one that actually made a run at the playoffs before falling short in the final weeks, finishing a respectable 40-42, and despite their failure to advance, I was hooked. This season promised even more from the team and I quickly became a regular spectator of their televised games – which was most of them. The lineup was young and talented, with the dual attack of Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay set to carry the majority of the load, who were joined by good players like Marc Gasol, OJ Mayo, and Mike Conley, all of whom were loaded with potential.
As the season wore on, the young Grizzlies exhibited the traits you might expect from a small market team, with numerous ups and downs, but generally staying right at or slightly above the .500 mark. But, as in all sports, things can often take a turn for the unexpected and in February, Rudy Gay was diagnosed with a season-ending shoulder injury. All of a sudden, the promise thusfar exhibited seemed for naught and it looked like the Grizz were destined for yet another season of futility.
That was when something amazing and unexpected happened. The team came together, the people of Memphis rallied around them, and somehow they started to win. Players began to emerge like the aforementioned Mike Conley and defensive specialist Tony Allen to pick up the slack. They were playing like a team possessed, working together with little ego while pushing for a long-elusive playoff spot.
And earn a playoff spot they did, solidifying their number 8 seed and a first round date with the star-laden, top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. In the history of their franchise, the Grizzlies had never won a playoff game. The franchise came into the series having made it to the postseason only three times in their 16 year history with an overall playoff record of 0-12, but hopes were high that they might win one game and break the drought. Little did we know what the scrappy Grizzly team had in mind and soon a hope for one win turned into a series victory, as the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs in six games and advanced for the first time in franchise history.
The second round produced another challenge, though, this one being the young and dynamic Oklahoma City Thunder, led by top NBA scorer Kevin Durant and the dynamic Russell Westbrook. But again, hopes were high here in the Bluff City. The games have been unbelievable, with the frenzied crowds creating a college basketball-like atmosphere instead of the normally subdued NBA. The series opened in OKC, where the Grizzlies pulled out all the stops in game one and came away with the victory. Their celebration was quickly ended, though, as the Thunder roared back in game 2 to even the series. Game three moved the teams back to Memphis where the Grizz excelled on their homecourt and again came away victorious, giving them a 2-1 edge in the 7 game series.
Last night was game four and let me tell you it was incredible. Both teams hit the court hard, neither wanting to be denied. The Grizz quickly built a large 1st half lead, which the Thunder summarily cut down and took their own rather large lead. But the Grizzlies would not be denied, and soon the game was sent into overtime. By this time, it was well past 11:00, probably more like around 11:30, and I was beginning to get a little worried about the time, I mean, I had to go to work the next day. But the basketball gods had it in for us working people of Memphis last night and soon one overtime gave way to another, which then begat a third. By the third overtime, two of Memphis’s starters and top ball-handlers had fouled out and the exhausted team was barely surviving by making one miraculous shot after another (I still don’t know how Vasquez made that one crazy three pointer). OKC’s stars took over and by the end of the third overtime, the Thunder were victorious by a score of 133-123. It was an amazing game, but, man, am I paying for it this morning at work.
With the Mississippi River getting dangerously high downtown, the Grizzlies give this troubled city a reason to believe and for that we should all be grateful.
And Wednesday night we’ll do it all over again. Go Grizz!
A Roundball Weekend March 28, 2011Posted by Matt in basketball.
Tags: Cuonzo Martin, March Madness, Memphis Grizzlies, my bracket is garbage, NBA 2K11
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This weekend my NCAA Tournament bracket did not merely get blown to pieces, it got a-bombed into oblivion.
Then again, I would guess that everyone else (unless you are crazy of have some sort of dark, supernatural foresight) did as well.
All four of my Final Four picks (Kansas, Ohio St, UConn, and Wisconsin) made it to the Sweet Sixteen, but after a wild four days, only one of them remains – UConn – and I had them losing the National Championship game to Kansas. I am entered in Mark Elrod’s Tournament Challenge and though my bracket (Unfrozen Caveman Vitale) is still in the top 10, my chances to win were thrown out the window over the weekend. Oh well, such is life. Go VCU!
In other exciting news, Mike Anderson was officially presented as the new coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks over the weekend and all of the Hog faithful, including yours truly, rejoiced!
Tennessee also announced their new coach, the young and relatively unknown Cuonzo Martin. Check out #thingsIwouldhavethoughtCuonzoMartinwas on Twitter for a good laugh.
On the pro side, our Memphis Grizzlies are planted in the 8th playoff spot and hopefully they will sew that up in the next two weeks. Everybody loves to win and it’s been far too long since they have done this well. Now, if only they could pull of moves like I did in NBA 2K11 on the PS3, – trading Mike Conley straight up for Derrick Rose. Now, that would be a team!
Thoughts on the weekend of basketball?
Matt’s Meandering Mind on Monday January 4, 2010Posted by Matt in Matt's Meandering Mind on Monday.
Tags: Arkansas Razorbacks, communal living, Inglourious Basterds, Liberty Bowl, Memphis Grizzlies, random thoughts, weight gain
- I weighed myself this morning…and the results were not good. Now with the knowledge that I’ve put on a good 10 lbs over the holidays, it’s time to buckle down and get serious. Over the weekend, my friend James gave us their old weight machine to add to my free weights in the garage. Of course, it will be well below freezing tonight and we won’t be able to buy a space heater until next payday, but I’ll survive. My friend Jason the workout guru and I put together a plan of sorts for me that I’m planning on starting this evening.
- Inglourious Basterds = Best Movie of the Year. I watched it once over the long weekend and actually considered doing it again (rewatching movies is almost completely unheard of for me) because it was so awesome.
- At first I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend the Liberty Bowl and see the Razorbacks play over the weekend. Of course, then I realized that it was about 25 degrees outside and watching it indoors became much agreeable. Congratulations to the Hogs on their big win over East Carolina! Now I just need to find something else to watch in place of the terrible brand of basketball being perpetrated by my boys from Arkansas.
- Speaking of basketball, it has been a pleasant surprise to see our hometown Grizzlies doing well as of late, climbing out of last place and bringing their record all the way to .500, at 16-16, which is the best they’ve done this far into the season in a few years. Here’s to hoping they can keep it up for the rest of the season.
- The remainder of my top 100 albums of the decade list is still forthcoming. I will hopefully have more time to write in the coming weeks.
- We’ve been doing a lot of talking recently with good friends of ours about the possibility of communal living in the future. At this point we’re still in the talking stage, but it is possible that this could lead to a major change in lifestyle for us. I’ll keep you posted.
His Butt Hurts November 3, 2009Posted by Matt in basketball, Memphis.
Tags: Allen Iverson, Chris Vernon Show, Memphis Grizzlies, My Butt Hurts
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I’ve never been much of a fan of NBA basketball, but after I moved to Memphis 5+ years ago, I developed a passing interest for professional basketball due to the presence of a local team, the Memphis Grizzlies, who since that time have devolved into the worst franchise in the league. In an effort to boost sagging attendance and maybe improve the team, the Grizzlies brought in past All Star Allen Iverson, who at 34 years old is far past his great years. At the same time, he has long been known as a ball-hogging sort of player who gives the impression that he is entitled to a massive amount of shots in each game. According to the team, the purpose of bringing Iverson in was to provide a mentor for young players and to give them a scoring threat off the bench. A.I. missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, but this week he finally made his long-awaited debut…off the bench. As would be expected, his postgame quote was awesome:
I had no problems (with my hamstring) I had a problem with my butt sitting on that bench so long.
Today I was listening to Chris Vernon’s sports talk radio show, which, by the way, is hilarious on an almost daily basis, and they wrote a rap song dedicated to A.I.’s great quote. Check out “My Butt Hurts.”