Who Are the Top Three Rivals of the Memphis Grizzlies?

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Who Are the Top Three Rivals of the Memphis Grizzlies?
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Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder.

COMMENTARY | Southern hospitality abounds in Memphis, unless you happen to play for one of three NBA franchises.

As the Grizzlies have entered the scene as one of the NBA's most competitive franchises, rivalries have begun to emerge. Some rivalries have become more intense than others.

With this in mind, which rivalries are most prominent in the minds of Memphis Grizzlies fans?

Oklahoma City Thunder. Memphis and Oklahoma City have a lot in common. They are both relatively new to their respective cities, they both play in small markets, and both have some of the loudest arenas in the league.

Perhaps most notably, though, both teams have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and quietly developed from laughingstocks into true championship-contenting franchises. With these similarities has come a true rivalry. The Grizzlies and Thunder have met twice in the past three seasons in the playoffs. In 2011, OKC ended Memphis' improbable run by defeating winning Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in the absence of Rudy Gay. In 2013, the Grizzlies claimed their revenge by defeating Oklahoma City in the second round in absence of Russell Westbrook.

Both Grizzlies and Thunder fans have cited key injuries as the rationalization for their respective series losses. So who is truly the better team? Perhaps 2014 will bring some clarity.

San Antonio Spurs. Many would argue that Memphis and San Antonio are on completely different levels of competition. The Spurs have been contending for and winning championships for decades. Despite only recently emerging as an elite team, Memphis was able to dethrone the mighty Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs in just six games. This led some Grizzlies fans to underestimate the Spurs in 2013 when they swept Memphis in the Western Conference finals.

Despite this, many Memphians still withhold the idea that the Grizzlies can legitimately compete against a powerhouse franchise like San Antonio. Only time will tell if that sentiment is legitimate.

Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis fans may think of Oklahoma City and San Antonio as friendly rivalries. In the case of Los Angeles, however, sentiments often verge on true hatred.

The Grizzlies and Clippers have met as the fourth and fifth seeds in the first round of Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. In 2012, Los Angeles embarrassed Memphis by eliminating the Grizzlies on its home court in game seven. In 2013, the Grizzlies came from 0-2 down to win four in a row and claim their revenge on the Clippers.

There are certain characteristics of the Clippers' style that truly irks Memphis fans. Most important, flopping. The L.A. Clippers have become known as one of the worst flopping teams in the NBA and the Grizzlies have experienced it first hand over these past two seasons, leading many Memphis fans to dub the opponent as "The Los Angeles Floppers." In addition, many Memphis fans have the idea that Los Angeles has played "dirty" in many of the playoff games.

All in all, the players of these two teams do not like each other and the fans definitely do not like each other. This makes for an ultimate rivalry that many may secretly hope gets reborn in the new NBA season.

The Memphis Grizzlies have won and lost playoff series against all three of their biggest rivals. Many may argue that the past is meaningless in the NBA. Try telling yourself that when the Grizzlies match up with the Thunder, Spurs or Clippers this season. With these rivalries, the past defines the future.

Nicholas Naveiras is a lifelong Memphian, college student, and diehard Memphis Grizzlies follower. He has followed the franchise's on- and off-court progress since 2001.

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