In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen the news yet, the Grizzlies released a short film—the work of Memphis director Craig Brewer and many, many other Memphians—designed to help them re-sign free agent Mike Conley, who is due for a big payday this summer. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you can watch it on Grizzlies.com.
The film is introduced by Justin Timberlake, and features interviews with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol—himself recently the subject of a Brewer-helmed “Marc Gasol of Memphis” film (and he is most certainly “of Memphis”, in case you missed our Memphian of the Year profile of him). But there’s a moment in the film that looms large in the lore of the “Grid and Grind” era of the Grizzlies: Conley’s return to action in the 2015 NBA Playoffs to lead the team to back-to-back wins over the Golden State Warriors despite suffering a serious facial fracture that required him to play wearing a face mask.
We’ve been lucky, as Memphians, to have this team around this long. It’s rare for a team to make six straight postseason appearances, much less six straight appearances featuring the same major players. And once it’s over, as it inevitably will be (though whether that time is soon or far in the future depends in no small part on whether Conley decides to stick around this summer), those are the stories we’ll continue to tell. How Conley risked his well-being and fought through tremendous pain to give his team a chance against a team no one thought they could beat. How Zach Randolph put the Grizzlies on his back and bullied his way through the Spurs to win the franchise’s first playoff game, and then series. How Tony Allen defended Kevin Durant so fiercely that Durant’s hometown paper called him “Mr. Unreliable.” All of it combines to form a legend that will never fade away, not in this town, anyway.
And that’s what the Grizzlies are reminding Conley with their film. He’s an irreplaceable part of that success; none of it happens without him. And we, as a city, would do well to cherish this team while they’re still together, whether that’s for another few days or a few more years.