Chris Herrington has been killing writing for ESPN’s TrueMemphis feature on the TrueHoop blog. Today’s post talks about the rivalry that has developed between the Grizzlies and Thunder and some of the best moments over the last few years between the two teams. Go read the whole column. It’s fantastic.
A few highlights:
On Thursday night, at Memphis’ FedExForum, these teams will play for the 30th time over the past four seasons, including three playoff series (counting this one). The Grizzlies hold a 15-14 edge in that span, but the clashes between these two teams have provided much more than that. The series has given Grizzlies fans six overtime games and the franchise’s first Game 7, and has paved the way for a first trip to the Western Conference finals.
In Memphis, this became known as “The Tony Allen Game.” A February rematch in Oklahoma City, in which Allen had 27 points (still his high with the Grizzlies), five steals, three blocks, zero turnovers and brilliant late-game defense on Durant, rendered it “The First Tony Allen Game.” Following the overtime win Monday, Allen turned a postgame interview into an impromptu sideline soliloquy, warning of the dangers of the Ibakas and Sefoloshas of the world, but not before a now-familiar rallying cry: “It’s all heart. Grit. Grind.”
Memphis’ crowd seems more unruly. The Grizzlies used to try T-shirts come playoff time — the “whiteouts” and “blue-outs” and what have you — but had to spend too much time before games shaming reluctant fans into putting them on. The lockstep look didn’t fit, especially with unofficial Tony Allen T-shirts erupting into a local cottage industry. People preferred the towels. They lend themselves to more boisterous, physical expression.
Allen might not make sense as a cult hero in every NBA city, but he fits in colorful, big-hearted but rough-edged Memphis, where he’s embraced his “The Grindfather” persona so fully that he displays the nickname on a vanity plate on the front of one of his cars.