Memphis only has room for one bandwagon

How Memphians should feel about the Clippers and Chris Paul

How Memphians should feel about the Clippers and Chris Paul.

I am a Memphian. I am a Grizzlies fan.

Those two statements go together as naturally as any two phrases in the English language.

The following phrases do not go together:

I am a Memphian. I am a Thunder fan.

I am a Memphian. I am a Heat fan.

I am a Memphian. I am a Lakers fan.

I am a Memphian. I am a Clippers fan.

Unfortunately those statements are heard, and more importantly seen, all too often in Memphis and at FedExForum.

Since Memphis is a small-market city with a relatively young NBA franchise, we often fall prey to our own citizens swearing allegiance to other, flashier, more superstar-laden teams. And you know something? It’s pathetic.

With the NBA Playoffs upon us, let’s take a second to look at those teams that load their bandwagons with hundreds of our city’s residents and rank their despicableness. You might disagree with the order, but we can all agree that this is Memphis and the Grizzlies should be the only team we love.

Note: If you are from a city that features another NBA team or have traveled to see your favorite team play here, you get a pass. The following is directed at Memphians.

Honorable Mention: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Out of all the teams listed above, a Memphian being a fan of the Thunder should be the least offensive  because the Thunder are what the Grizzlies could be if things had shaken out just a smidge differently in terms of drafts, signings, and money management.

Like the Grizz, OKC is a young franchise that was uprooted from the Northwest and moved to a small city by pro sports standards, but they are one that has seen immense success in a small amount of time. Through some good fortune they got the rights to draft a superstar in Kevin Durant. Through more good fortune and savvy drafting acumen they got the rights to take another superstar in Russell Westbrook. Then, through even more good fortune they got the rights to pick a third superstar in James Harden (after Memphis took Hasheem “The Bad Dream” Thabeet no less) and Serge Ibaka. In those drafts, the Grizzlies got Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, and the aforementioned Bad Dream. One of those players has worked out well for the Grizz, but Conley is still not a superstar. However, all of the Thunder draftees have panned out better than anyone could have imagined. And to top it off, they managed to make great financial decisions to keep multiple superstars on their team for the foreseeable future without compromising the quality of their role players.

To say the Thunder front office is smart would be an understatement. General Manager Sam Presti is a genius, albeit a pretty lucky one, but one nonetheless. He has made incredible picks, great signings, great trades, and wise financial decisions. The once in a lifetime luck of getting Durant and Westbrook (who are both still so young) mixed with Presti’s front office smarts (See the James Harden trade) will keep the Thunder relevant and contending for championships for a long, long time.

Yes, the seven game playoff series with the Thunder in 2011 was brutal and heartbreaking. Yes, Grizzlies fans should be crazy jealous of how much success they have seen in such a small amount of time. Yes, it hurts to see people show up at The Grindhouse, and cheer on the Thunder. But are they the worst of the bandwagon fans? No.

Hopefully one day we can build a juggernaut like they have.

Disclaimer: My wife is from OKC. Putting a positive spin on the Thunder was necessary for my marriage’s sake.

Now, the real list of the Most Despicable Bandwagon NBA Fans in Memphis:

3) The Miami Heat

Being a fan of the Heat would have been excusable when Memphis didn’t have a team. In the 1990s, they were an upstart franchise. They had cool jerseys. They had Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. I had plenty of friends in elementary school that loved the Heat.

But now becoming a Heat fan means one thing: You are a front-runner. You cheer for a team that wins all the time. You cheer for a team that has three superstars that all decided to play together. This team didn’t draft well or make good trades. They signed two future hall-of-famers to support Dwyane Wade’s ailing franchise, and now the NBA is their playground. Any team that has Lebron James is going to be able to compete for a title (2007 Cavs anyone?), but a team that featrues James, Wade, and Chris Bosh has a distinct advantage over everyone but the Dream Team.

Cheering for a team always includes heartbreak and agony. It’s feeling like you’re in the trenches fighting it out by the players’ sides. There are no trenches for the Heat. There is no heartbreak. After the 2011 NBA Finals, there was a thought that maybe this team couldn’t coexist well enough to win, that maybe there was too much talent. Now that thought is foolishness. This team, if they stay together and as long as Lebron keeps breathing, is going to win title after title after title.

You could make the comparison that the Heat are like the 90’s Bulls teams that featured Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, but we have our own team here in Memphis now. Cheer for them. Don’t cheer for the team that is the best and most dominant. Where’s the fun in that?

2) The Los Angeles Lakers

Five years ago, if the Grizzlies played the Lakers, FedExForum would have been jam packed with people. And sadly about 90% of those people would have been cheering on the purple and gold. That was when Grizz stunk. It was frustrating, but getting to see Shaq and Kobe and Phil Jackson was a treat for their fans in Memphis.

Since the Lakers have had such a dominant grasp on the NBA for the better part of the last four decades, it makes sense that they would have picked up some fans in places besides L.A. along the way, Memphis being no exception.

But now, Memphis is good. Memphis is really good. We are going to finish with a better record than the Lakers despite them having four future hall-of-famers. And yet we still see The Grindhouse full of Lakers fans when we play them. Fans that taunt our fans. Fans that cheer anytime Kobe Bean Bryant touches the ball. Fans that are loud and obnoxious and act like the Lakers are the end all be all of professional basketball. Come on Memphians. How can you let a team that is 2000 miles away from your home be your home team? When Memphis got a team, your Lakers love should have taken the backseat to the Grizz.

1) The Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have been terrible forever. They have made the playoffs only a handful of times. They have always played second fiddle to the Lakers. Their owner is a horrible person. Their beat writer has said that Memphis “smells like no one showers.” They have the reputation of being a team that whines, flops, and plays dirty. They have made a brand out of dunking and alley-oops, a miniscule portion of what makes the NBA great. They are the worst.

And yet every time I see the Grizz face the Clippers at FedExForum there are still hundreds of people cheering for the Clippers. It’s disgusting.

Memphis’ Clippers fans cannot say they have been fans for life because this team wasn’t even relevant outside of L.A. until Blake Griffin started playing for them which was 10 years after the Grizzlies came to Memphis.

Memphis’ Clippers fans can’t say they love Chris Paul and Blake Griffin more than any other player in the league. Why would anybody want to cheer for two of the biggest whiners the NBA has seen in the past 20 years?

Memphis’ Clippers fans can’t tell me they love the Clippers because they are dominant. This team is far from dominant. They have a mediocre record for the talent they possess. If anything they are underachieving because Vinny Del Negro is a horrible coach.

This Clippers team is among the league’s most deplorable, and somehow they manage to include some of Memphis’ citizens as their fans. Those “fans” that this team of babies and Prima donnas has won over are the ones you should heckle berate when you see them in the Forum. You should let them know that this is Memphis, home of grit ‘n grind, a blue collar city full of blue collar people, and that Memphis wants no part of them if they cheer on the Clippers.

You’re going to have plenty of opportunities to give the Clippers fans a piece of your mind as the Grizzlies are set to battle the Floppers for the second year in a row in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Go Grizz. Beat L.A.

Warner Russell is a regular contributor for MemphiSport and The Wise Guise. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @uncle_warny.



  1. Well said

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