WARNING: You are reading the personal thoughts of a true Memphis Grizzlies fan. In this specific post, no stats will be given. This was written from a completely different standpoint. There is a good chance you may not agree with me. (We can still be friends.) But just remember, I warned you.
“We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else.” – John Wooden
I am not a girl who likes change. In fact, change usually gives me anxiety. There is something about the unknown that scares the hell out of me. There is a safety and comfort in things staying the same. Even if it’s something that you aren’t happy with, at least you can prepare yourself for the disappointment, right? That’s why it was a very foreign feeling for me when I was excited about the Rudy Gay trade. Yes, you read that right. I was excited. I know this will make some Grizz fans hate me, but I feel that I need to make a confession. I am not a Rudy Gay fan. At least not in the last year. Actually, I can pinpoint the exact date I fell out of love. It was January 30, 2012. The Grizzlies played the Spurs at FedEx Forum. I was wearing my Rudy Gay inspired shirt that said “Make Your Own Luck”. That night, Rudy Gay had one of the worst games of his NBA career. He only scored one point, but that wasn’t why he lost my heart. It was his behavior. In my opinion, he showed no passion, no drive, and towards the end, he tried to get thrown out of the game. Something changed for me that night, and I’m convinced something changed in Rudy Gay. I understand that every player has bad games. In a long NBA career, it’s inevitable. But this felt different.
I am a big believer in basketball analytics, but there are a few things that the numbers just can’t measure. Numbers can’t measure whether a player’s heart is in it. Numbers can’t measure if a player has that fire in his eyes. Numbers can’t measure how much a player really cares about his team. It is the fan that determines whether or not his favorite player or team is playing with passion and heart. These assessments are always subjective and biased. There were a lot of games when I saw Rudy Gay pouting and not being a team player. I have very good friends who are Rudy Gay fans, and after watching the same games, they’d say they saw Rudy going hard and trying to do whatever it took to win the game. So it would be foolish for me not to acknowledge that my opinion on Rudy Gay’s dedication to the Grizzlies is simply that, my opinion.
There are a lot of Rudy Gay fans out there who say he is one the nicest guys you will ever meet, and they believe he was giving one hundred percent every night. But from where I was sitting, Rudy Gay was never in love with Memphis. I rarely read any quotes or saw any interviews where Rudy mentioned the fans or the city. It was almost as if we didn’t exist. To be fair, the Grizzlies have two very passionate, and vocal players in Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. If they are being interviewed, it won’t be long before they mention the respect they have for the fans and the city of Memphis. Obviously part of that is personality differences between Zach, Tony and Rudy. I guess I am just one of those fans who expects more on and off the court from a max contract player. I guess I have been spoiled. The NBA is a business, and I realize that means the players can’t always care or put their trust in a team as much as the fans would like. But I think if you play for a small market team, you have a responsibility to connect with the fans more than if you played in a larger market. A good example of this is Reggie Miller. Although he was hated by a lot of NBA fans in his day, Reggie Miller embraced Indiana and Indiana embraced him.
I have heard a lot of people say that Rudy Gay wasn’t embraced by the fans, so they didn’t blame him for keeping his guard up. I would argue that the majority of Grizz fans loved and supported Rudy Gay for years. It was only in the last few seasons that I noticed fans expressing their frustration with him. Grizz fans started noticing that his stat sheet hadn’t changed much since 2006. I would hear people accuse Rudy of coasting and doing “just enough” after he got a max deal. I want to clarify that Rudy Gay had some really great moments with the Grizzlies. He also financially gave to different groups and charities in Memphis. This post is about what I felt Rudy Gay lacked that hurt his reputation in Memphis. And in my opinion it was the player to fan connection. Even so, it was still a very odd feeling to lose a player I had become accustomed to seeing night after night for almost 7 years. And in a weird coincidence, the trade went through exactly one year to the day after his notorious one point game.
Honestly, I think most Grizz fans (even the ones that love Rudy) are willing to admit the relationship between Rudy Gay and the city of Memphis had grown apart. And much like our own relationships that have gone wrong, we tried to stay in denial. We made excuses because we were afraid to make the break. What if we miss him? What if we made a huge mistake? And was he really that bad?
Then there are the outsiders that want to give us their opinion. “You know Memphis could do A LOT worse than Rudy Gay!” (Thanks for letting us know we are “no longer a contender”, SHAQ!) And now that it’s finally over, Grizz fans will deal with the break-up in different ways. Some fans will immediately move on. Other fans will dwell on the past and continue to question when and why everything fell apart. Some will tune in to more Toronto Raptors games this season than they have in their entire lives. But there will also be those who have no interest in hearing about Rudy’s new relationship.
I can’t speak for you Memphis, but I am moving on. I am embracing the change because the Grizzlies were in a bit of a rut. Yes, it’s been a great season overall, but the spark wasn’t there anymore. Rudy Gay and Memphis had become nothing more than roommates, and both sides deserve better. In the end, it really doesn’t matter if we wish Rudy Gay best wishes or good riddance. What matters is coming together as a city to support our team in this time of change. And when we are ready to love again, I hear there is a Prince waiting in the wings. But that’s another post.
I believe it was the Memphis Grizzlies minority owner, Justin Timberlake who once sang the great words:
“I’m checkin’ out, I’m signin’ off. I don’t wanna be the loser, and I’ve had enough. I don’t wanna be your fool in this game for two. So I’m leavin’ you behind. Rudy*, bye, bye, bye.”
*The author of this post may have made a slight change to the original lyrics.