Memphis Grizzlies: Is Grit -N-Grind dead?

Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images /

The Grindfather is a Grizzly no more. What does that mean for the Memphis Grizzlies’ identity?

On Monday, The Vertical‘s Shams Charania reported that Tony Allen and the New Orleans Pelicans are in the final stages of agreeing to a one-year deal. The news means the end of the man so affectionately known as the Grindfather as it pertains to his time with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Allen played in Memphis for the past seven years, and, along with fellow departed fan favorite Zach Randolph, was the embodiment of the team’s Grit-N-Grind ethos.

Allen was a great defender and valuable player before joining the Grizzlies, but he wasn’t embraced as such until that point. His rugged style of play and blunt personality matched Randolph’s perfectly. Under the duo’s leadership, and with the support of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies bullied and bruised their way to an impressively consistent level of competence, pummeling anyone that dared get in their way.

The Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies never made it beyond the Western Conference Finals, and really their ceiling was probably never that of a championship-level team, but their significance to the franchise will forever be an historical one. Fans identified with the Allen, Randolph-led iteration of the team in a way they never had before. For the first time in Memphis’ brief basketball history, the team was actually good, and beyond that, endearing in a way that was uniquely tailored to the city.

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And so, with both of the Grizzlies philosophical forebears now playing elsewhere, the natural question becomes, is this the end? Is Grit-N-Grind dead?

Memphis still has Conley and Gasol, who were consistently the team’s best players during their run of success. They’re a bit more skilled than either Allen or Randolph, and have begun leaning into the more modern offensive approach that David Fizdale has brought to the team, but neither is afraid to mix it up a bit on the court. The Grizzlies will still have to rely on their defense to win games, which was the ultimate reality of the Grit-N-Grind philosophy.

Still, it doesn’t seem fair to say that Grit-N-Grind lives on without its spiritual avatars. It wouldn’t feel right. But it also doesn’t seem fair to say that it’s died entirely. That would be underselling the impact that Allen and Randolph had on influencing organizational culture and identity. Their attitudes have been institutionalized in a way that doesn’t just disappear over night.

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Vestiges of Grit-N-Grind will live on. In the players. In the fans. In the historical mythology of the team. Grit-N-Grind is the origin story of the Grizzlies’ rise to relevance. That kind of thing doesn’t go away. So yes, it’s the end of an era. But no, Grit-N-Grind is most certainly not dead.