Zach Randolph's mother, Mae Randolph, raised her four children without a male influence. She taught her oldest son to believe in loyalty and love. They didn't have much else. Their family was destitute, on welfare much of his childhood. Randolph wore the same pair of jeans to school day after day, week after week. Kids called him "crusty." Embarrassed and upset, one day he walked into a Walmart, grabbed a new pair of jeans, and tried to walk out the door without paying. He was caught, and spent 30 days in juvenile detention.
This was the start of a familiar pattern. Years passed, infractions piled up, but Randolph's basketball talent blossomed. Randolph introduced himself to his high school coach, Moe Smedley, with the declaration that he would one day play in the NBA. He developed a knack for doing the dirty work, muscling, rebounding, and pounding bigger guys down low. He flashed that smile of his, a big cheek-to-cheek grin. But authorities placed a 15-year-old Randolph under house arrest for battery. He was placed in juvenile detention two years later for receiving stolen guns. In 2002, he was arrested for underage drinking less than a year after being drafted into the NBA by Portland. The problems trailed him there, where Randolph earned fame and infamy as a member of the "Jail Blazers," a much-reviled team that tainted professional basketball in Portland.
Now 31, Randolph has become the face of the Memphis Grizzlies, a franchise that limped badly until its improbable upset of no. 1 seed San Antonio two springs ago. He is unquestionably a beloved figure both in Memphis and in Marion, about 65 miles north of Indianapolis up I-37. He's fit in so naturally in Memphis that many mistakenly believe Randolph actually hails from the city. He tutors younger teammates like Tony Wroten and Josh Selby, something that would have seemed far-fetched — to say the least — after Randolph's struggles transitioning into the league.