The unofficial end of the Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies era in Memphis is maybe the hardest sports-related heartbreak I’ve ever had to come to terms with. It’s been harder than when Michael Jordan retired the first time or basically every season the Chicago Cubs didn’t win the World Series.
Growing up in Memphis, I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of live pro sports, mostly because there wasn’t much to see. We basically had the Memphis Chicks, a long-defunct farm club for the Kansas City Royals whose baby chicken mascot bore no relation to the indigenous Chickasaw tribe from which it took its name. But I digress.
So when the team relocated from Vancouver in 2001, I was ecstatic (I was also pissed about the timing because I’d just gone away to college, but oh well.). At my very first NBA game at the Pyramid, I got to see one of my absolute favorite players ever, Jason Williams, playing for my hometown team and going head-to-head against Gary Payton, another one of my childhood idols, who lit us up for 30-some-odd points and gift-wrapped us one of the countless blowout losses we’d suffer during those early years.