Grit and Groan 

Watching Marc Gasol celebrate the NBA championship was more bitter than sweet.

While the local and national media were busy portraying Memphis as a town just happy to watch our Large Spanish Son succeed, I wondered if I was the only Grizzlies fan watching the NBA Finals with the acrimony of an ex who had just received a save-the-date from the one who got away. If nobody else is going to acknowledge that it's still freaking weird seeing Marc Gasol in Toronto Raptors black and red, whooping and celebrating and chugging wine with some other teammates, I guess I'll be the first.

When the Grizzlies sent Gasol to Toronto, I knew they were doing right by him, putting him in a position to win a ring without the pressure of having to be The Guy all the time. I just wasn't prepared for it to happen so fast. It was beyond time for both sides to move on and start looking toward the future. But seeing your ex having a good time with somebody else at a place he never took you is never fun, regardless of who broke up with whom.

Marc Gasol holds the 2019 NBA Championship trophy. - REUTERS | USA TODAY USPW
  • Marc Gasol holds the 2019 NBA Championship trophy.

"Oh, he does that now? Interesting," I caught myself saying during Game 5. "Aggressive Marc showed up. Man, I miss these nights."

Yes, the relationship outlived its spark and lasted about a year longer than it probably should have, taped together by memories of happier times. But that should have been us, dammit. Forget throwing a parade for Big Spain — how about a pity party for the city that was, to borrow a line from his new team's pop icon, with him shooting in the gym. And we'll get to do it all over again next season, when Mike Conley inevitably proves to be Utah's missing piece. Hell, maybe Mike and Marc will end up playing each other in the Finals. Won't that be a dream come true? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. It will be depressing.

Please do not get it twisted — despite my bitterness and the number of times I've yelled "Oh, for God's sake will you just shoot it?" over the past few seasons, I am truly happy for Marc Gasol. I love nothing more than seeing people accomplish their goals.

Actually, that's wrong. There is something I would love more, and that is seeing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen on a parade float, cruising down Riverside Drive. Please pause for a moment to ponder this amazing visual and consider how close it was to becoming reality. In some parallel universe, I like to imagine it has happened — maybe even twice. In that universe, Z-Bo's hand never met Steven Adams' face five years ago. The Grizzlies upset the Thunder and rode that momentum to the Finals. CJ McCollum's elbow never got acquainted with Conley's eye socket, and the Warriors never even got a chance to blow a 3-1 lead against the Cavaliers. A lot of things would have had to go right to secure those outcomes, and "everything going right" has only recently become associated with the Grizzlies brand, but fandom doesn't have to be rational all the time. Fan is short for fanatic, after all.

That's how close they got to glory — just a couple of unlucky breaks and some really, really questionable personnel decisions away. Remember that the next time you see someone comparing the Gasol and Conley trades to "sending them off into the real world" like a kid to college, as a fan told one local outlet. It wasn't long ago that the Grindhouse was the real world that chewed up the Spurs and crushed the Clippers, where the MVP became Mr. Unreliable.

With an electric new point guard and some new people in charge, it feels like good times are on their way back to the corner of Beale and B.B. King. But the organization lingered a little too long in the glow of the Grit 'n' Grind era (ahem, Wrestling Night), so I think we've earned a little extra time to grieve. Hopefully Ja, Jaren, and company understand and can make room for the Core Four in their eventual championship parade. For the visual and for paving the way.

Jen Clarke is a digital marketing specialist and an unapologetic Memphian.

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