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Determining the face of the Memphis Grizzlies

Could Ja Morant outshine the Mount Rushmore of Grit and Grind

2016-17 Memphis Grizzlies Team Photo Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

I realize it is not what Starship had in mind, but Memphis was literally built on rock ‘n’ roll. What other town could have spawned the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison?

For those young-uns joining us, the Grizzlies were not always located in Memphis. From their inception in 1995 until 2001, the Grizzlies called Vancouver home. Not a bevy of notable players unless you consider Chris Robinson, Roy Rogers, and George Lynch could be mistaken in print for musicians. Perhaps that had something to do with the move to the Home of the Blues.

In 2001, the newly dubbed Memphis Grizzlies (name taken from one year World Football League franchise) traded during the draft for Pau Gasol, the eventual Rookie of the Year. The elder Gasol spent his first seven seasons with the Grizzlies.

In a strange twist, Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008 for his younger brother Marc. Marc would become a pillar of the “Grit and Grind” era of the Grizzlies along with Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. The Million Dollar Quartet (see hwta I did there?) defined Memphis for over half a decade.

In fact, to date Memphis has never retired any of the numbers of their former players. That said, the organization has announced plans to retire the Zach Randolph’s No. 50 later this year on December 11, 2021, followed by Tony Allen’s No. 9 on January 28, 2022, with Marc Gasol’s no. 33, and Mike Conley Jr.’s no. 11 to follow in the future.

More of a Mount Rushmore than a singular face, the discussion on which Grit and Grind member defines the Grizzlies could start here. Is it Conley’s leadership, Gasol’s dominance, Allen’s defensive acumen, or Z-Bo’s community service that edges one over the other?

It is possible that as a group they all cancel each other out, leaving a clear path for Ja Morant. The 2020 Rookie of the Year is one of the league’s most exciting players. He led the team to a successful run in the league’s first “play in” tournament, besting the Golden State Warriors to earn a playoff berth.

A young franchise with a limited number of star players. It may be too soon to call Ja Morant the face of the franchise, but it is definitely too early to count him out.

What do you think, Pounders?


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