MikeCheck: On the court and in community, Bane embraces next big steps with Grizzlies

MEMPHIS – In charting his growth as a team leader and budding NBA standout, incremental progress would be one of the last terms to describe Desmond Bane’s ascent.

So as the Grizzlies’ breakout guard winds down the summer of his third NBA season, it’s only fitting that Bane is embracing the task of taking another big leap – in life and in basketball.

Juggling changes on both fronts has kept Bane busy coming off a breakout season when he helped Memphis post a franchise-record 56 victories, win a postseason series for the first time since 2015 and push eventual NBA champion Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals.

“Basketball is the main thing – that never stops,” Bane said of his mindset seven weeks out from the start of NBA training camps. “It’s my kid, camps (and) community events. But basketball is always the main thing. As long as I keep that the main thing, everything else falls into place. I’m definitely going to continue to grow and make another jump for sure.”

When it comes to Bane’s impact off the court, significant leaps have already been made.

Last month, Bane shared photos and messages on social media of his newborn son as a proud father for the first time. The 24-year-old sharpshooter wrapped up July by hosting a free youth basketball clinic and community picnic in his native Richmond, Indiana.

And those wide-ranging outreach efforts continued this week in Memphis as Bane opened August with a back-to-school backpack giveaway at FedExForum that benefited 150 kids. In words and deeds, Bane is as committed to expanding his outreach for worthy community causes as he is determined to improve almost every aspect of his rapidly developing game.

Fatherhood has added another layer of maturity to a young man who already conducted himself with poise and class well beyond his years. And as his profile blossoms as one of the NBA’s top young shooters, Bane is grateful to redirect some of that spotlight and attention onto growing his base of sponsors and business partners he’s aligned with for his charitable causes.

“The visibility is what it is, but I do this out of the goodness of my heart, regardless of being an end-of-the-bench guy or the best player on the team,” Bane said of his outreach, with Shelby County Schools set to open Monday. “I want to do things like this, bring smiles to kids’ faces, the best way I can. Especially in an area like Memphis, it’s essential for kids to get some excitement going into the school year, to get the proper materials. I remember going school shopping as a kid and some things you have, some things you don’t. But we’ll be able to supply them with the necessary things to get started.”

If this feels familiar, well, it is.

The Grizzlies have a long and strong Indiana-to-Memphis pipeline of guys who have endeared themselves to this community with their play as well as their personal philanthropic touch.

Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, both with Indiana roots, were deeply embedded in this community as they drove the Grizzlies to seven consecutive playoff seasons during the Grit’N’Grind era. Randolph’s retired No. 50 sits high above FedExForum and he now serves as a franchise ambassador. The Grizzlies have also committed to retiring Conley’s No. 11 eventually.

Bane, however, only needs to look across his current locker room to find a teammate who’s traveled a similar pathway. Grizzlies star forward and fellow Indiana native Jaren Jackson Jr. has been instrumental since arriving in Memphis four years ago in the development of community voting initiatives as well as girls’ athletics and fitness programs.

Bane is already firmly following in some phenomenal footsteps as a person and player. His next goal is to partner with more of his current teammates to give back in even more ways throughout the region and across some of his colleagues’ hometowns.

“Just get out in the community, hang out and chill – bring people together,” Bane said of his motivation, especially coming out of a global pandemic that limited such gatherings. “I’ve talked to a few of my teammates about eventually doing some things together. Memphis being the place where I play, and Richmond, Indiana being the place where I grew up, those will be the two places that hit home the most. Anything on top of that is a cherry on top.”

Building on a sweet season on the court is the next task at hand.

Bane, Jackson and All-NBA point guard Ja Morant anchor a chore group that returns largely intact from a team that was one of the league’s most improved squads last season. The Grizzlies have advanced a step farther in the postseason in each of coach Taylor Jenkins’ three seasons in Memphis. They’ve re-signed point guard Tyus Jones in free agency and added four players, including first-round picks in forwards Jake LaRavia and David Roddy, in June’s draft.

Fulfilling his role as a young veteran, Bane hosted the rookies at his Memphis home when they arrived in town after the draft to prepare for NBA summer league action. He’s also taken on more of a mentoring and workout role with forward Ziaire Williams, last year’s lottery pick.

As far as boosting his own game, Bane knows he’ll need to come back even better and stronger to deal with the increased attention he’s certain to attract from opposing teams this time around.

Bane set a franchise record with 271 made 3-pointers, doubled his scoring from his rookie season to 18.2 points a game last season and shot 43.6-percent from beyond the arc. He was also third among all players in 3-pointers made per game during the playoffs.

Playing alongside Morant, Bane is confident the Grizzlies will again boast one of the most productive backcourts in the league. But the ultimate goal is team success and returning to the playoffs for a third straight season to make a deeper run.

“That was some of the most fun basketball I’ve had since I was a kid,” Bane insisted of last year’s playoff performance. “The regular season was extremely important for us, but we’re trying to make some more noise in the playoffs. You look at the best teams, Golden State and the top teams across the league that have been able to build something over a long period of time – that’s part of our journey. We’ve got to the playoffs the last two years, and we’re surrounding that core with the right pieces. The sky is the limit.”

While reaching for the sky with his team, Bane is eager to stay grounded in community work.

His primary reason?

“There’s a lot of blue-collar people here trying to make something of themselves,” Bane insists.

Considering his work ethic on and off the court, count Bane among them.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.