It's forgivable if you're not caught up on the many subplots of the NBA Western Conference playoffs (games end really late), but the emergence of the Memphis Grizzlies as championship contenders, and their fans as rabid difference-makers, has been something to behold.
Thus far in these playoffs Memphis is 4-0 at The Grindhouse (how's that naming rights deal working out for you, FedEx?), and the crowd bubbled over last Friday in Game 6 against the Clippers when the song "Whoop That Trick" came on the P.A.:
Has rapper Al Kapone's song, which originally appeared in the 2005 Memphis-set film Hustle and Flow, been a thing at Grizzlies games for awhile, or is this new? I asked Jonathan Louis May of GrizzGrind.com.
"It started very mildly during Game 4 vs LAC as a blend of 'whoop that trick' and 'whoop that clip' after some signs with that slogan popped up early in the series," he says. "The first wide-spread chant, though, was when Grizz dropped the 'Finish Them!' banner with about 4 minutes left in Game 6. It was one of my proudest Memphis sports moments, honestly. It said a lot about our civic spirit that you had such a diverse group including big money upper class Memphians chanting it."
Fast forward to this past Saturday night for Game 3 against the OKC Thunder. OH MY GAWD, IS THAT AL KAPONE? WHAT'S HE DOING HERE?!?!?!
In Hustle and Flow, the protagonist, Djay, raps autobiographically about being a pimp, but he's trying to use his music -- his dream -- to build a second life in Memphis. In this way, the movie's narrative jibes with this rag-tag Grizzlies roster. Tony Allen, the team's pitbull perimeter defender, once tore his ACL after he got fouled at the top of the key and had his absurdly-long-after-the-whistle dunk rejected by the rim. Zach Randolph is now on his fourth NBA team, and has had a hell of a path on and off the court before ultimately finding a home in Memphis. Marc Gasol, the League's Defensive Player of the Year this season, was seen as a throw-in when traded for his brother Pau in 2008. And Mike Conley, who was actually drafted by Memphis, saw his contract extension get ridiculed by the national media, resolved to do something about it, and has emerged as an elite NBA point guard.