KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal

Why Grind City Media? Easy, It's Home … Again

By Michael Wallace - Grind City Media

GRIND CITY, Tenn. - I can still taste the metallic bitterness of my own blood.

That, sometimes, is the unfortunate consequence of an innocent run-in with Zach Randolph. It was an off day during that first-round playoff series against Portland two years ago, when Randolph was demonstrating to reporters the viciousness of his low-post battle with LaMarcus Aldridge.

I simply rolled up on the scene behind Randolph at the wrong time – just as he flung his right arm in the midst of a “better-get-him-up-off-me” ultimatum. My jaw met Z-Bo’s elbow.

I didn’t flop.

But I did feel it for the duration of that postseason playoff run. Consider this Lesson One I will carry into my new role as Senior Editor, Contributor and analyst with the Memphis Grizzlies’ soon-to-launch Grind City Media venture on Grizzlies.com: Give Z-Bo his space, or stitch up the results.

I never imagined ever leaving ESPN. But change, they say, is inevitable. Yet change is rarely accompanied by opportunities to conceive, birth and mold seemingly pipe-dream possibilities into unprecedented projects – job assignments that involve the only professional sports league I’ve ever dreamed of covering since my first column for the school newspaper all those years ago.

I’ve relocated to Grind City, blessed to have had lightning strike twice in my journalism career. I stand at the intersection of change and new challenge, looking fondly back on a decade of seduction from the South Beach sun and sand while chronicling the superstars who powered the Miami Heat to three NBA championships since 2006. I thank the basketball fans who followed my national coverage the past 10 years, and for putting up with me, engaging me and demanding more and better every step of the way.

And I invite you to join us at Beale Street and B.B. King Boulevard, where Grind City Media won’t just follow the team, but also engage, excite and grow a fan base with unprecedented coverage of the most unique squad in the NBA’s most passionate hoops town. Leaving Miami and parting with a media giant like ESPN when my contract expires in October involved the most difficult decisions of my career.

But then a fascinating combination of fate and faith led me here. I smelled the barbeque, heard the blues and envisioned the championship blend of basketball and culture new coach David Fizdale has imported from Miami to reinvigorate a proud roster still anchored by ‘Core Four’ catalysts Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Elbow, er, Z-Bo. Not only have controlling owner Robert Pera and the front office spent a franchise-record amount to keep this roster core intact, they’ve invested significant resources to chronicle this team’s journey. It’s sure to be a game-changer for fans and business partners as we generate digital media content and new revenue streams.

Simply put: We’ve assembled a national team of media insiders to cover the Grizzlies and FedExForum on a global scale. No sports media personality in the region has his finger closer to the pulse of the Memphis fan than my man Chris Vernon, who in addition to signing on with Bill Simmons and The Ringer to host a series of podcasts, has also joined Grind City Media as Digital Host and Contributor. Soon, you can log onto Grizzlies.com for the daily ‘Chris Vernon Show’ and hear him dish as passionately as ever on the Grizzlies, local and national sports and pop culture.

We kept loading up and also snagged SLAM magazine’s rising multimedia star Alexis Morgan as Grind City Media’s new Digital Content Reporter. From everything hot happening on the FedExForum court to the entertainment red carpet, Morgan will have all the latest trends and developments covered. Together, with new social media talent Amara Baptist, we hope to enhance the deepest and most talented broadcast coverage team in the league alongside Pete Pranica, Brevin Knight, Sean Tuohy, Rob Fischer, Eric Hasseltine, Elliot Perry and Hank McDowell.

Our daily Grizzlies.com content is sure to keep fans informed on any device with daily developments on the Grizzlies and FedExForum entertainment through audio and video livestreams, video segments, breaking news, features, columns, game coverage, team interviews, analysis and social media. Our enhanced coverage will provide instant updates and take you behind the scenes for insight and access you can’t and won’t get anywhere else. These are exciting times for an exciting team.

I came because this feels to me like the 2010 offseason all over again. That’s when, just days after LeBron James told the world he’d be taking his talents to South Beach, ESPN called and said they were assembling a special team of reporters and analysts to cover the Heat in an unprecedented digital way. I jumped on board for the biggest professional thrill ride of my career as the Heat Index’s page views quickly soared into the millions and the impact of our coverage set a tone for mainstream digital media.

I was blessed to help anchor a team of talented reporters that accomplished big things then in Miami. I’m fortunate to get that chance again with a new opportunity in Memphis. Lending my voice, insight, analysis and leadership to Grind City Media was the next natural step for me.

I came because they stayed – first Gasol and then Conley. You don’t just live and work in this place. You believe in it. The grit the people have here just grinds on you until it becomes contagious. It seeps into your DNA. We aim to creatively tell the daily stories of this place and its people, these players, this team and this word-class venue to a regional, national and global base of basketball and entertainment fans.

Lastly, I came because it’s basically home. My wife is from the region, the in-laws have already helped us unpack; my teenage son has taken his alto sax skills to Stax, and is already a member of the performance academy. His sister is conditioning with her high school varsity hoops squad. And my wife is set to partner our Miami-based Duffels4Kids foundation with local community outreach agencies to help raise awareness and supply needs for local children in adoptive and foster care.

In other words, we’ve hit the ground grinding.

It’s the Memphis way. You learn that quickly around here.

Almost as quickly as knowing to give Z-Bo some space.