Memphis Grizzlies, The Whiteboard

Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies get some much-needed recognition


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On Wednesday, it was announced that the Memphis Grizzlies have planned jersey retirement ceremonies this season for both Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. These two jersey retirements, and the eventual ones for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, will probably resent the only real, authentic opportunities to celebrate the most important era of Grizzlies’ basketball.

In the seven seasons Gasol, Conley, Allen and Randolph played together, from 2010-11 to 2016-17, the Grizzlies posted a win percentage of .597. For the rest of their franchise’s history, their win percentage has been just .351. The Grizzlies made the playoffs in all seven of those seasons and just four of the other 19 seasons the franchise has existed. They won 29 playoff games and four playoff series during that era. For the rest of their existence, they have won a single playoff game, getting swept in three of the four first-round series in which they’ve appeared.

And the importance of Gasol, Conely, Allen and Randolph to this era was not merely symbolic (although it was that too). Gasol, Conley and Randolph, in some order, hold the top three spots on the all-time Grizzlies leaderboard for games, minutes played and points. Gasol and Randolph hold the top two spots in rebounds. Conley, Gasol and Allen are the top three in steals. Gasol and Conley hold the top two spots in assists. Collectively, they are responsible for 13 of the 25 best individual seasons in franchise history, as measured by VORP.

Tony Allen and Zach Randolph helped usher in the best and most meaningful era of basketball in Grizzlies’ history

None of this foursome is likely to make the Hall of Fame — Gasol probably has the best chance and Basketball-Reference’s model pegs that probability at 4.2 percent. There will be no massive events or enshrinements that spark a national reflection on just how important this group was. But it makes more sense to celebrate this team on a local scale anyway. Their identity was always unique, always cohesive, and they always belonged to Memphis anyway. You could appreciate Grit-and-Grind from the outside but you couldn’t really feel it all the way unless you lived it.

The importance of this group is about what they did for this one organization, its city and its fanbase, not what they did for basketball writ large. And knowing Allen and Randolph, having the team and its fans acknowledge and celebrate that is probably the most meaningful recognition that could ask for.

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