May 3rd, 2013. It was game 6 in a first round rematch against the floppers from out west. With a 3-2 series lead, the Grizzlies were presented with a rare opportunity that any team craves, but few earn. Playoff revenge.
Rewind the clock to Sunday, April 29th, 2012….approximately 10:00 PM. Grizz Nation was riding high, and rightfully so, after an offensive explosion in the first half helped build a lead that would grow to 27 points. And then it happened. A barrage of Nick Young corner threes gave the Clippers 9 points in a minute and ten second span, all whilst the Grizz went scoreless. Suddenly, an already dissipating lead of 12 was cut to 3 with under two minutes remaining. The Grizzlies never recovered, as the “Miracle in Memphis” turned the game and series upside down.
Now fast forward back to May 3rd. Late in the fourth quarter, the Grizz held a lead over L.A. once again, but this time, there was no miracle to save the Flop City. Something amazing, however, did happen. A time out gave way to Super Grizz storming mid court and mounting an enormous ladder. And then he dropped it:
“FINISH THEM” – (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
The scene that ensued warrants many descriptors, but chaotic is accurate. Grizz fans reached their respective states of belligerence as people jumped, yelled, sweated, and of course waved their Growl Towels, which read “WE DON’T BLUFF”. Why all the commotion? 191 Beale Street transformed from FedEx Forum to Club Grind. The speakers blasted Memphis hip hop favorite Al Kapone’s “Whoop That Trick”, featured on the soundtrack of Hustle and Flow, as Grizz fans lost their minds for 30 seconds….seriously, I think I blacked out. The jubilation was pure. The air was hot, despite Rick Trotter’s pre-game announcement of a stable indoor temperature. But the Grizz served up revenge in it’s best state, ice cold. “Finish Them” Memphis did, as ZBo would be ejected in style after another KO of Blake Griffin, and, according to one front row source, labelled him “butter soft”….seriously Blake, give up.
The win pushed Memphis into the second round and a matchup against familiar foe OKC. The next time the doors of FedEx Forum opened for game 3 of the Thunder series, Club Grind reappeared in the fourth quarter, with an unexpected guest making his way to the court:
…Not in Oklahoma anymore, are you?
The two moments described, Super Grizz’s dropping of the banner and Al Kapone’s appearance, let the proverbial cat out of the bag. Writers around the country began to appreciate what was one of the best secrets in sports, the music of FedEx Forum. In the heat of competition, a major component of Memphis’ DNA oozed from the speakers and fans onto the national spotlight. Memphians love nothing more than they love basketball and music…. and of course good barbecue.
People began to notice what differentiates going to an NBA game from going to a Memphis Grizzlies game. Eric Freeman of Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo! Sports wrote an article in January featuring this topic. He declared that the Grizzlies boast the NBA’s best in-arena music team, led by Jason Potter, Director of Promotions and Event Presentations, Nathan Black, official in-house DJ, and Justin Baker, who controls the in game music. Andrew Unterberger from The Basketball Jones tracked down the three to learn more, which he too wrote about in January. A number of other articles will appear if you simply google the subject.
Jason Wexler, newly tabbed COO of the Grizzlies and in charge of arena operations, noticed the reaction to the Forum’s music and acknowledged it during the off season. Wexler announced plans to release playlists of arena music for individual games, which sounds great, but to my knowledge, has not yet happened.
The soundtrack to a Grizzlies game will span decades in time and genres in style. Everybody knows the classics. Ozzy Ozborne’s “Crazy Train”, Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody”, Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here Right Now”. The established songs are saved for familiar situations. There is the late game moment when a defensive stop is needed, and Guns and Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” rocks the roof. Perhaps it’s a lackluster start and groaning crowd that cues Green Day’s pre American Idiot work “Brain Stew” from their album Insomniac. Or, there are under 30 seconds left, the Grizz are up 4, and after milking the shot clock, penetrating the lane and dishing for a corner three which seals the game, the opponent calls time out. The Gap Band takes it from there, as “You Dropped A Bomb on Me” punctuates the night.
Yes, those are good, and classic for a reason, but the Forum features a mix of alternative, local, and current selections that truly set it apart from other arenas. For example, say the Grizzlies have just won, and the streamers drop from the rafters, then fans know what is next. DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win”. The younger crowd loves MGMT’s “Electric Feel” as Mike Conley dribbles past mid-court to setup the offense. As previously mentioned, everyone responds to the inclusion of Al Kapone’s “Whoop That Trick”, which has given rise to a fan favorite phrase “Whoop That Clipp”. Tony Allen’s tweets have more than likely played a role in getting Future’s “Go Harder” into the mix. Digging deeper, one might notice riffs from Nine Inch Nails lead-man Trent Reznor, or the sounds of Joy Division. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was heard almost instantly upon release, as was “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green. The playoff success of the tenth anniversary season inspired Teflon Don’s “M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Grizzlies”, which was then played at Grizz games.
Outsiders might assume the best way to get a taste of Memphis music is to visit Graceland, Sun Studio, or Stax Museum…and they should. Those are historic monuments for Memphis and for music. But to put a finger on the pulse of some modern day movements, one should look no further than a Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum. Because during the next timeout you’ll probably see a trivia game posed to one fan regarding a song of Elvis Presley or Isaac Hayes, all right before Al Kapone comes out to say “get ’em”, and ZBo whoops that clipp to the newest beat around.
– Travis Nauert