That first night back in town for a beloved player is always weird. It’ll be even weirder tonight when the Grizzlies tip off the season against the New Orleans Pelicans and one of their new players. . . some guy named Tony Allen.
Anyway, Allen took to The Players Tribune to pen a thank you letter to “errbody” in Memphis — his former teammates, media, management, ownership, staff — like I said, errbody. Having held a mic in his face for so many years, I could hear his voice (mostly. Some of it seemed ghost-written, but I digress). The point is, TA put his name on it and I believe he meant it.
The whole thing is worth a read, but here are a few excerpts:
… Man, that Grit and Grind basketball, that style of hoop that people know they’re in for when they’d come play the Grizz? It ain’t just a style of play. It’s a way of life. That’s what people don’t realize about the Grit and Grind movement. It was a way of life for our entire city. It’s a city that’s been handed nothing, and had to work for everything. You feel me? It’s like when Showtime was happening with the Lakers — it’s that flashy, starry style of play, right? And then you see Los Angeles, as a place, you know, and it’s all movies and things. Grit and Grind, it’s that same type of vibe between team and city. It’s a fit.
And no one fit better than me.
And that’s what it came down to, for me, with that Memphis International Airport campaign: That was about fit — in this real special way. If you’re in this league for long enough, man, you see that there’s a system. You see that while a lot of different guys might be fan favorites or whatever … it’s really only the most franchise players who receive those big endorsements, or become the face of the team. But Memphis? That city is just different. They’re not like everyone else. They’re not about letting a blue-collar guy like me do all the dirty work, then not get any of the credit. Memphis is real. And when they embraced me, you know, it wasn’t just, like, “Oh, yeah, Tony, we like him, he’s a good player.” Yo … they embraced me. They bought my jersey. They bought those t-shirts with the little drawing of me on it. And — man, I never get tired of saying this out loud — they even let me be the face of the international airport.
And I’ll never forget it. I’ll always appreciate the city of Memphis for that: How they didn’t just let me play for them — nah.
They were willing to let me represent them.
And you did it well, TA. And so you’ll understand that after your standing ovation tonight, as fans, we want the Grizzlies to take that grit and that grind that you left us with . . . and beat the crap out of you and your new team.
And we know you understand. Because you’re going to try to do the same thing.
GNG Forever, bro. Good luck . . .