Move over, Elvis
Memphis may soon gets its first big-time sports star
Posted: Thursday April 12, 2007 4:08PM; Updated: Thursday April 12, 2007 6:14PM
You could make a strong argument that the high point of the history of professional sports in Memphis was when Andy Kaufman and Jerry "the King" Lawler staged a series of professional wrestling matches there in the 1980s that have become part of pop culture legend.
This is a sad commentary because: 1) professional wrestling isn't really a sport; 2) Andy Kaufman wasn't really a wrestler; and 3) their "feud" was a goof on something that is already a self-parody.
But really, what else has Memphis had? The history of pro sports in that town is not pretty.
Mike Tyson did get his last really good payday in Memphis in a 2002 fight against Lennox Lewis. But that bout is otherwise only memorable for completing the unmasking of a fighter who was once thought to be an all-time great.
Shaun Micheel, winner of the 2003 PGA Championship, is from Memphis.
And when it comes to team sports, Memphis' pro teams have played mostly in leagues that no longer exist.
The city had a USFL franchise, the Showboats -- Reggie White got his pro start there.
In the 1970s Memphis had a WFL franchise, the Southmen, which featured Larry Csonka -- he lists that on his resume below his stint hosting American Gladiators.
The XFL had the Memphis Maniax -- which enabled former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam to pick up a few extra football paychecks. The Canadian Football League, when it ventured into American expansion, had the Memphis Mad Dogs.
Memphis did have an NFL team for a couple years ... sort of. The Tennessee Titans hung out there for a couple of seasons waiting for their Nashville stadium to be built. Memphians, understandably, did not embrace the transients, and so for two years the Titans seemed to be playing 16 road games.
You could argue that the arrival of the Grizzlies, a bona fide NBA team, in 2002, is the high point of Memphis sports history. But as peaks go, this is pretty much a molehill. Since moving from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, the Grizzlies are 0-12 in playoff games. They've had some fine players in Pau Gasol and Mike Miller and Rudy Gay, but the franchise has never given the league a genuine star -- the kind like Kobe or Wade or Iverson that inspires kids across the country to buy their jerseys.
If an NBA fan emerged from a five-year coma tomorrow, you could update him on important league happenings without using the word Memphis once.
Odds are, though, that is about to change. This week the Grizzlies, with 19 wins and 60 losses, locked up the worst record in the NBA.
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