Over the past few seasons, as the Memphis Grizzlies have become competitive and arrived at the big-boy table of the NBA playoffs, rivalries have begun to emerge.
I had posted an article earlier about the Clippers viewing the Grizzlies as their chief rival, not the Lakers as the media would lead you to believe. That article can be found here: Clippers Main Rival Is The Grizzlies
When DeAndre Jordan was asked about the “heated” rivalry between the Clippers and the Lakers, he had this to say:
“I don’t think it’ll ever be a rivalry. You guys [in the media] want it to be, though,” Jordan said. “I would say Memphis more than the Lakers.”
But, that doesn’t mean Memphis fans think the same way. If playoff series are the stuff that rivalries are made of, the perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs hold a special place in the heart, mind, grit, grind of the Grizzlies fanbase.
Is it the similarities, or the differences than make for a great rivalry? It is not simply both franchises having the same goal, achvievable only by the one that denies the other.
Who are the Grizzlies primary rivals, anyway?
Oklahoma City Thunder have been a playoff foe in several of the past few seasons. They have much in common. Both are relatively new to their city, both having relocated. Both have taken a recent laughingstock to respectability path. Both have loud arenas providing a homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
But, just beneath the surface lie some real differences. Rumors of canned sound being piped in to the arena in OKC? Let’s just say in Memphis they’re keeping it real. If you compare slogans that go on playoff T-shirts and towels, OKC goes with “Community”, while Memphis goes all “Whoop That Trick!” And superstars before they accomplished anything on the court vs. made in Memphis? Check. They seem to only remember injuries in a playoff series when they were without one of their main guys, but fail to remember when the Grizzlies were licking some wounds?
Yea. There are the makings of a rivalry there.
San Antonio Spurs have been a formidable playoff foe. Some good memories include the first playoff series victory in Memphis, oh wait, all of Grizzlies franchise history. And an eight seed knocking off a one seed. Sweet. And all that bad blood about Pops accusing the Grizzlies of tanking at the end of the regular season to ensure that they would draw the Spurs as their first-round opponent. Yeah!
But, the Grizzlies have always looked up to and admired the Spurs as an organization. Patterned their own franchise after them. Well, they got treated like the little brother that was not welcomed to tag along last year, as the Grizzlies were outright embarrassed by the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. That methodical disassembling at the hands of the Spurs showed the rest of the league how to beat the Grizzlies, and resulted in significant offseason changes.
Los Angeles Clippers have beaten the Grizzlies in the playoffs in shocking fashion, and done so in seasons when the Grizzlies were looking to advance much further. The Grizzlies have repaid the favor. And, do these guys always have a satchel full of excuses when the Grizzlies get the upper hand? How many times can Chris Paul have a torn labia when facing the Grizzlies in the playoffs? Wait, what? …oh, labrum. That’s right.
This is another comparison of style vs. substance. Of prematurely ordained superstars vs. the earn-it-first mentality.
What do you think?
So. The Memphis Grizzlies have both won and lost playoff series to each of these rivals. Three worthy opponents.
Opponents in playoff series. Opponents for that special place in your heart. Which of these teams do you really, really love to hate?