Monday, 11 February 2013

Fan who took off Pistons jersey post-Tayshaun Prince trade meets idol at Grizzlies game (VIDEO)

Two Wednesdays ago, the Detroit Pistons took part in a three-team trade that sent small forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, point guard Jose Calderon to the Motor City and a trio of players to the Memphis Grizzlies. One of the Memphis three was small forward Tayshaun Prince, who had spent his entire 11-year career with the Pistons, played a key role on Detroit teams that made six straight Eastern Conference finals from 2002 through 2008, and offered strong two-way play on squads that came up about 10 minutes shy of back-to-back NBA titles under Larry Brown. For one fan who learned of the deal at that Wednesday's Pistons/Indiana Pacers game, as you'll surely recall, the news of Prince's trade was just too much to bear. By Thursday afternoon, the fan's jersey-shedding reaction to Prince's departure was all over Internet hoops sites (including this one) and TV highlight shows, and the fan had become something of a viral video star.

Now, thanks to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, we know more about the fan, whose name is Cory Brandt ... and thanks to the newspaper, the Grizzlies and their new swingman, Brandt and his family got an experience they'll never forget.

Take it away, Ron Higgins:

The Commercial Appeal, in conjunction with the Grizzlies, organized a trip to Memphis and surprise meeting with Prince for Brandt, wife Carri and infant son Landon. Brandt, a 27-year-old graphic designer from Greenwood, Ind., was doing a video interview with The Commercial Appeal when Prince appeared, sliding an arm around Brandt's shoulders.

"I know what you felt at the time, and I was going through it," Prince told Brandt, presenting him with an autographed No. 21 Prince Griz jersey. "Things happen for a reason, that's why you're here today and why I'm here today. You touched a lot of people in my family and I just want to say thanks for what you did." [...]

Commercial Appeal photographer Nikki Boertman saw Brandt's video and was touched by his loyalty. She tracked him down, and with the help of Commercial Appeal publisher George Cogswell and the Grizzlies, Brandt was able to live an unexpected dream. [...]

"It's unbelievable that something great like this can happen for no reason," Brandt said. "It makes you think anything can happen. I'm totally shocked."

As Brandt told Higgins, his longtime appreciation of Prince extends beyond the small forward's skills to his "always calm and cool" approach and professionalism ("Even when things didn't go well for him in Detroit the last couple of years, he never aired his differences publicly"), among other things. That's not entirely true — you might recall Prince invoking the word "buffoonery" to describe embattled former Pistons coach John Kuester's decision not to play shooting guard Richard Hamilton following a volatile practice exchange in January 2011 — but it sounds mostly right as a descriptor for a player who mostly flew straight and always worked hard amid some trying circumstances after the Pistons' heyday passed.

There's plenty about Prince to like — not least of which, from Brandt's perspective, is Prince's stellar four-year college career at Kentucky, as Brandt's bled Wildcat blue since 1998, when Prince was a freshman in Lexington. The Kentucky T-shirt Brandt wore under his Pistons jersey let Prince know "what kind of die-hard fan he is," according to Higgins, which helped spark his interest in touching base with Brandt and led to the surprise visit.

After meeting Prince, Brandt and his wife enjoyed courtside seats to the Grizzlies' Sunday matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and — as luck would have it — watched Prince play his best game in a Grizzlies uniform, going a perfect 8 for 8 from the field to score a team-leading 18 points in just 23 minutes during Memphis' 105-88 win. At halftime, Brandt and his family heard cheers from the FedEx Forum crowd after he received an introduction as "the newest Grizzly fan."

That's obviously super cool of all parties involved, but I wouldn't be so sure that Brandt's now a lifelong Grizz backer or anything. After all, one must remember the moment that got us here in the first place — Brandt showing love for his favorite player by removing the kit of the team that just moved him because, as he said, "I'm a Tayshaun Prince fan, not a Pistons fan." So treat Tayshaun well, Memphis, and you'll have a new member of the flock ... but heaven help you should you shuttle him out of town. (We don't expect Brandt to get rid of this jersey, though. Autographed game gear doesn't grow on trees, after all.)

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