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Memphis Grizzlies: From Grit and Grind to Villains of the NBA

It is understood that the Memphis Grizzlies have become the hottest commodity in the NBA this season. From a rivalry with the defending champion Golden State Warriors to consistently making bold statements to the media. 

It is no surprise that the Grizzlies have embraced the villain role and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. Social media has deemed Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks to be the most hated player in the NBA, but Grizzlies fans have appreciated him for his role on the team.  

It seemed like in 2020, the Grizzlies were universally appreciated by basketball fans as a team bursting onto the stage, taking down the Warriors in the play-in tournament. 

The fandom for the Grizzlies would continue to grow as they took the leap as one of the best teams in the 2021 season. They brought exciting young energy into the game with a little old-school Memphis attitude as well. 

The Grizzlies began making headlines with Ja Morant’s breakout season and an in-game altercation with LeBron James that caught the attention of the league. 

Post-game interview mobs were revolutionized by the team, making them different from others and overall, a fun team to watch. The shooting of Desmond Bane, the playmaking and athleticism of Ja Morant, and the energy and defense of Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr continued to sell out arenas. 

It brought NBA fans back to the past with the infamous Grit & Grind era led by Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. 

That is where it started for Memphis as they made a name for themselves in the years 2010-2015, making the conference finals in 2014. 

The Grit and Grind era was loved by many as they were always underdogs that made no series easy for the favorable opponent. This time, the Grizzlies are considered contenders which makes them a favorable threat that many do not want to win. 

The hatred for the Grizzlies began in last year's playoffs versus the Golden State Warriors. A second-round matchup that was highly anticipated and well worth the hype. 

In game 2 of the series, Dillon Brooks would attempt a block on Gary Payton II, but Brooks’ arm would take out Payton and fractured his arm on the landing. There was animosity before as Ja Morant and Stephen Curry talked the whole series, but Steve Kerr’s comments would really get the fire going. 

Kerr would say after game 2 that Dillon Brooks “broke the code”. 

“There’s a code that players follow. You never put a guy’s season or career in jeopardy by taking someone out in mid-air and clubbing him across the head and ultimately fracturing Gary’s elbow,” said Kerr. 

This would prompt Brooks to respond back saying that “I don’t even really know what that means. It’s the playoffs… every play counts. So I don’t know what that means.” 

Fans did not appreciate Brooks’ response as it came off as insensitive and senseless to the situation. 

The animosity would only get worse as in game 3, Ja Morant would suffer a knee injury on a play where Warriors guard Jordan Poole would pull at his knee going for a loose ball. The injury would put Morant out for the rest of the series. 

Morant would then post a since-deleted tweet of the play with a caption that read “broke the code.” 

There was frustration on both sides, but most of the media sided with the Warriors, as they defeated Memphis in six games to advance and later win the NBA Championship.  

Things would not end there as we are in the current 2022-23 season as both teams faced each other in a highly anticipated Christmas Day matchup. The Warriors would win the matchup, but there was plenty of trash talk from both sides. 

Fast forward to later in the season, the trash talk is still there but it spills completely off the court as Dillon Brooks and Draymond Green would go back and forth. 

Brooks would speak his thoughts on Green in a feature with ESPN. 

“I don’t like Draymond at all. I just don’t like Golden State. I don’t like anything to do with them. Draymond talks a lot. Gets away with a lot, too. His game is cool — with Golden State — but if you put him anywhere else, you’re not going to know who Draymond is. He plays with heart, plays hard, knows the ins and outs of their defense. I guess that’s why they like him over there.” 

Green would respond to the comments on his podcast with a statement that gave similar energy back to Brooks. 

"If you ever wondered why the Memphis Grizzlies is not ready to compete for a championship, look no further than this idiot right here. They actually are depending on this guy to help them win a championship, and he says 'his game is cool.' Quite frankly, that just shows how little you know about basketball.” 

Draymond would even bring up the question of if Brooks’ teammates even like him, which prompted Brooks to bring up Green’s punch on teammate Jordan Poole earlier this season. 

The feud would be heavily documented ahead of the Warriors-Grizzlies matchup on March 9th on TNT. 

Brooks would have an overall good game that was highlighted by a steal and layup over Green in the second quarter. Brooks and Green would go face-to-face after the basket. 

Memphis would win the matchup 131-110, but Brooks’ post-game comments were worth the listen. 

"That's what I do, I talk. I told him keep that mic open. Keep doing his podcast, keep blogging, keep doing his thing off the court. You know it's cute, it's fun for him... You should give the mic to Draymond, make him talk about me … Make him keep talking about me so I can play better." 

This would be the icing on the cake for the Grizzlies to become the villains of the NBA.  

With the possibility of a rematch in the playoffs between both teams, the animosity will be at an all-time high. It would truly be a test to see if this is a rivalry that fans can look forward to in years to come. 

I am sure that both teams are more focused on winning the championship. Especially the Grizzlies, who look to capture that elusive first title for the city of Memphis.

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