MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For Erika Thomas, Grizzlies games are a place for troubles to melt away.
"It's like a sense of relief," She said. "I might be stressed at work that day. Go home get ready, go down to the FedExForum at 5 o'clock and everything is gone."
She's cheered on the Grizzlies since the days at The Pyramid. For the last 12 years, her son Ky has been along for the ride. He has effectively grown up at FedExForum, sitting in the stands since before he could walk or talk.
"I passed it down," She said. "Now I think he's a bigger fan than I am. I feel like he turns into a different person at the games. Dancing. Yelling at the refs."
"I get a little more animated," Ky said with an admissive smile. Now that he's a little older, his new hobby is getting gear from the players.
"At first he was scared," Erika said. "Then a little boy asked if he can get the shoes. And he went 'Huh, all I have to do is ask."
He has an arm sleeve from Ja Morant. A headband from Vince Carter, and more pairs of shoes than he knows what to do with. Mike Conley gave him black-and-white Jordans an even autographed them.
But his prized possession came from Marc Gasol.
"Size 17," he said, showing off the white Nike sneakers with blue-and-yellow souls. "They're gigantic."
At this point, Ky has his finesse down to a science.
"Before games I shake their hand. Let them warm up, and then when they come back I'm like, 'Nice warmup, can I get a pair of your shoes?' Like private so no one else can ask them."
His mother is grateful for the Grizzlies bond they share.
"It makes me get teary eyed," Erika said. "I'm very emotional about it. Because who don't want to have that with their child, with their son, and I'm proud of it."