It's become tradition for every NBA playoff team to give its attending fans a t-shirt, towel, or similarly uniform item at each home game. The goal is to create a sea of color coordination, an intimidating front in which every fan's passion multiplies upon everyone else's so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The plan works so well that its efficacy can only be communicated via mixed metaphors.
The Memphis Grizzlies have gotten in on the action for Friday night's Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers, a potential closeout game that would put the home squad in the second round for the second time in three seasons. While a playoff promotion is not notable in itself, the Grizzlies' particular choice of item is: towels with the slogan "We Don't Bluff." Check out the photo above via their vice president of basketball operations (and former irredeemable stat nerd) John Hollinger.
"We Don't Bluff" isn't just an empty phrase like "Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong" or "Give peace a chance" — it's perhaps the best encapsulation of the philosophy of All-Star power forward Zach Randolph (and by extension the Grizzlies as a whole). Back in November, Z-Bo and Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins had a heated on-court exchanged that was alleged to have carried over into the locker room after the game. In speaking to reporters after the game, Randolph said these words: "Man, I play basketball. I don't worry about all that. Perk's all right. There's a lot of bluffin' going on the court, that's all, you know. And I don't bluff."
The Grizzlies have used "Grit 'n Grind" mantra for the past several seasons, but "We Don't Bluff" is arguably a better way of putting what makes them such a formidable opponent. This team doesn't back down to challenges, attempts to enforce their style upon the game at any cost, and simply won't quit until the rules of the sport dictate they must leave the court. They mean what they say, and we know this because their actions do most of their talking for them.
Yet, while these shirts have turned "We Don't Bluff" into a positive statement of purpose, using it in this fashion could risk courting controversy in a few days. If both the Grizzlies and Thunder manage to win their first-round series this weekend — both are up 3-2 — they will face each other in the Western Conference Semifinals beginning next week. Even though this slogan has been largely divorced from the context that inspired it, the notoriously gruff Perkins may not take kindly to the franchise using his tussle with Randolph as inspiration for a promotional playoff item. It seems odd, but a simple t-shirt could end up as bulletin-board material.