Day #13: Why I will keep coming back to Memphis

In lieu of my recent move back to Memphis from New Orleans (since I’m subleasing my room in NOLA to another Venture for America fellow for a couple months in order to save some money), I wanted to share this story I wrote about Memphis in 2016. Although I have many more extensive thoughts on this now 4 years later, I wanted to share this story first (and because it’s already almost midnight).

Later this week, I’ll talk more about the very tough decision I made to move back to Memphis (at least temporarily). In the meantime, hope you enjoy this piece from a few years ago…

It was April 29, 2011. My dad and I hadn’t missed a playoff game yet, and we weren’t going to miss the most important game in Memphis Grizzlies franchise history. It was game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs in this David vs. Goliath series. The No. 8 seed Grizzlies were squared off against the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs.

Everyone had written off the Grizzlies before the series even started. Most NBA analysts said that they would lose this best of 7 series in four or five games. No one thought they had a chance, except the Grizzlies themselves. In game six, they had a chance to knock off the Spurs and move on to the Western Conference Semifinals.

To understand the significance of this series to Memphis fans, you need to know a little history. The Grizzlies hadn’t made the playoffs in five years and hadn’t won a playoff game since they moved to Memphis in 2000. Grizzlies fans had suffered through so many seasons of disgrace and utter failure that everyone was almost ready to give up on them.

So when we not only won a playoff game in 2011 but were on the brink of knocking out the best team in the conference, you can imagine how each and every Grizzlies fan felt at the time.

The Grizzlies managed to win the game 99-91 led by Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph with 31 points, and they became the fourth No. 8 seeded team in NBA history to beat a No. 1 team. After the game, as my Dad and I strolled through the ecstatic crowd, “Z-BO, Z-BO, Z-BO, Z-BO…” reverberated throughout the stadium and outside on the world renowned Beale Street. I had never seen my city so united.

April 19, 2015: An introduction of the players at a Memphis Grizzlies playoff game in FedEx Forum

When I was asked to write a story about my hometown, dozens of things about Memphis popped into my head. I could write about Beale Street Music Festival, Mud Island, and how we are the birth place of Rock n’ Roll. I could write about Shelby Farms- one of the largest public parks in the country- the Zoo, and the University of Memphis. And I could even mention how we boast the best Bar-B-Q in the country.

However, a quick search on Buzz Feed would show you all of these things, so I wanted to tell a story about why Memphis means so much to me.

When outsiders think of Memphis, they probably think of the delicious smoked Bar-B-Q and Elvis Presley. And as I’ve learned since starting college last August, some people even imagine miles and miles of farmland and country people. While both of these things are present in some places, it certainly does not define the city of Memphis.

To me, Memphis means so much more than just the tangible people and places that I’ve listed above. It means family and friends that I’ve known my whole life. It means grinding through the tough times no matter what. Most of all, when I think of Memphis, I think of a diverse community that is united on various causes. Whether it’s the Memphis Grizzlies, Memphis Tigers, or St. Jude Research Hospital, Memphis always comes together no matter what brings us apart.

The phrase coined by guard Tony Allen during the 2011 NBA playoff run defines Memphis in four simple words: “All Heart Grit Grind.”

Cheers to Memphis,


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Thanks and I hope you have an amazing weekend doing the things you love with people you love.

Published by Jonah Baer

Florida State student | Memphis, TN native

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