Memphis Grizzlies: In a League Without Parity

Apr 22, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) and center Marc Gasol (33) react during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) and center Marc Gasol (33) react during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

What do you do when you’re fighting a battle that you can’t win? What truly defines a team’s legacy? The Memphis Grizzlies will soon answer these questions.

Regardless of how it comes about, greatness is always celebrated. If you want further proof of this, ESPN is still recognizing the Celtics/Lakers dynasties of the1980s. People still celebrate the Bill Russell-led Celtics of the 1960s and Jordan’s Bulls to this day.

Make no mistake, the NBA has never truly been a league of parity. Since 1984, only ten teams have won a championship. Since that same time, three franchises–Bulls, Lakers and Spurs–have won five titles. The NBA has never been March Madness, the NFL or MLB. The NBA is a league where only the very best will triumph.

Draymond Green can claim that Lebron James started the super team, but in reality, super teams have almost always dominated the NBA. There are always exceptions (the 2014 Spurs, 2011 Mavericks, and 2004 Pistons), but it usually takes multiple future Hall-of-Famers to win an NBA championship. The Golden State Warriors are just the next great team in line. Their championships won’t have asterisks; history will celebrate them like the other great teams.

All of this being said, Kevin Durant has changed the current state of the league. The Warriors are only the second team in NBA history to only lose one game in the playoffs, and they had the second best point differential ever (1971 Bucks). Like it or not, the Warriors are dominant in a way that the league hasn’t really seen before. So what does this mean for the Memphis Grizzlies?

Fighting a Losing Battle

The Grizzlies are a symbol of civic pride for the city of Memphis. “Grit ‘n’ Grind” and this team’s blue-collar identity have always fit this city perfectly. They’ve played a style of basketball that even their fiercest opponents greatly respect. Even though they’ve always fallen short to superior teams in the end, they left everything on the floor. The Grizzlies are awesome. They’re memorable.

They’re not good enough to win a championship.

If it wasn’t obvious before, Golden State has made it glaringly so now. Without plenty of breaks, there simply isn’t enough talent on the Grizz’s roster to beat Golden State in a seven-game series. Of course, this isn’t true for only the Grizzlies. If Lebron James can only take one game from them, it doesn’t speak well of other teams’ chances.

The NBA is a league, as it currently stands, that has only one team that can legitimately win the championship. Though it’s depressing to admit, the Grizzlies, like most of the other NBA teams, have a clear ceiling on what they can achieve. The Grizzlies have struggled for a long time: They’ve had blissful playoff victories and heartbreaking defeats. They’ve managed to break through and get to the conference finals before. However, reaching the ultimate goal–an NBA championship–is a battle the Grizzlies cannot win right now.  So what do you do when you face an insurmountable challenge?

Insanity or Legacy?

Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

A wise man once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. With that knowledge in mind, should the Grizzlies just do what angry people on Twitter say all of the time: Blow it up? After all, what’s the point in running out the same core year after year that has shown they won’t win a championship? Let’s start over and build for the 2020s when the Warriors aren’t quite as dominant!!

Before you decide to jump on that train, it would probably be wise to remind yourself of how much of a crapshoot the NBA draft is. Want to trade Mike Conley and Marc Gasol for early lottery picks? Good luck drafting the next Lebron James or Kevin Durant, because that’s what it’s going to take to have a true chance of beating a super team. Also, the Grizzlies’ recent drafting history should not, ahem, inspire much confidence. The 76ers, Kings and Magic have all struggled through the draft for years without much sign of improvement.

So if starting over isn’t a viable option, what should the Grizzlies do?

For better or for worse, the Grizzlies’ legacy has been defined by flawed persistence. They have the third longest active playoff streak, yet they’ve consistently fallen to better teams. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t pushed those better teams to hell and back. Remember when they held a 2-1 lead over the eventual champions in 2015? Or, when they were swept by San Antonio in the conference finals in 2013, yet three of the games went to overtime?

Flawed persistence should be the Grizzlies’ game-plan over the next several seasons. After all, it’s a part of their legacy. Memphis should retain the Gasol-Conley core, while making improvements and changes, to continue to compete. No, they aren’t good enough to win a championship, but then again, no one really is in a league that contains the Golden State Warriors. This current Grizzlies team is good enough to win a playoff series and perhaps make the conference finals.

It’s also important to remember that in life, as well as in the NBA, nothing is ever guaranteed. Maybe Kevin Durant pulls a LeBron and returns to Oklahoma City within the next few seasons. Klay Thompson may decide that he wants his own team. Injuries happen as well. The Grizzlies need to remain in contention, because there could be breaks they can receive over the next couple of years. Despite their limited ceiling right now, a parade on Beale Street isn’t completely out of the question over the next several seasons. However, it will only be possible if the Grizzlies stay the course.

An Example for Life

More from Grizzlies News

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. -Dylan Thomas

In life, there are times where we will face challenges that we simply may not be able to overcome. It’s how we respond to those challenges that defines us.

The Grizzlies now face a challenge that they may not be able to overcome. However, this team has a legacy of always rising to every challenge. Whether it’s bringing a Wayne Selden to a Kawhi Leonard fight, or suiting up a D-league squad in the playoffs, the Grizzlies never back down from anyone. As “Grit ‘n’ Grind” enters its twilight, the final story of this team is yet to be written. Challenging greatness is never easy. But when has anything ever been easy for the Memphis Grizzlies?