You might think to yourself…what there is to talk about regarding the Memphis Grizzlies history? Well, the Memphis Grizzlies are still a young franchise by NBA standards; they did not exist prior to 1995, when they entered the league as an expansion franchise in Canada, the other half of the NBA’s two-part push into the U.S.’s northern neighbor.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ history has been short, but fairly eventful, in the years since their first appearance in the league.
Thanks to some good seasons, strong draft picks, and solid coaches, the Memphis Grizzlies still hold their own in a very competitive professional league, in a division that brings them head to head with the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs, the New Orleans Hornets, and the Houston Rockets many times each season.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ history begins once upon a time in the 2000-2001 season, when Canada still had two teams in the NBA: the Toronto Raptors, who still make their home north of the border today, and the Vancouver Grizzlies.
They originally wanted to take the name Vancouver Mounties, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police objected to the moniker, so the native animal was chosen instead.
The team honored basketball’s founder, Canadian James Naismith, by choosing one of their team colors as “Naismith blue,” and made history by becoming the first NBA team to create a Web site for the franchise.
For two years in a row, the Vancouver team finished with the league’s worst record, and then the NBA lockout occurred in 1998-99. When the league came back together to resume play, almost 200 days and 450 games later, attendance at General Motors Palace in Vancouver had gone down.
Unsatisfied with the team’s future prospects in Vancouver, owner Michael Heisley made an appeal to the NBA Board of Governors, asking to move the Grizzlies to Memphis for the 2001-2002 season. Once the fans got wind of the move, their support increased, but the deal was already done and the Grizzlies made a change of scenery.
Memphis Grizzlies history records many great players calling FedEx Forum home. The most well-known is forward/center Pau Gasol, from Barcelona, Spain.
Well-known for his long, scraggly hair and thick beard, Gasol is also famous for his athleticism despite his 7′ height, and his scoring is steady and difficult to defend. Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2001, Gasol was immediately traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and spent his first season earning himself the Rookie of the Year award.
Currently, he holds many of the Grizzlies’ franchise records, despite being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in February 2008.
Alongside fan-favorite Shane Battier, Gasol led the Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance in 2004. Despite a sweep by the San Antonio Spurs to eliminate them in the first round, the Grizzlies recovered the next season to make the playoffs that year and the next.
However, they hold the longest playoff losing streak in NBA history — 12 consecutive losses, thanks to three years’ worth of sweeps in the first round — and have not won a playoff game in franchise history.
In the short Memphis Grizzlies history, there have been a grand total of eight coaching turnovers, although current coach Lionel Hollins has taken the position three times — once in 1999-2000, once in 2004, and since 2009 to the present.
Some of the coaches have been significant contributors to the game of basketball, such as Hall of Famer Hubie Brown, who won the Coach of the Year award in 2004 and was at the time the oldest coach in the NBA.
The Grizzlies’ general manager position has also seen some significant turnover, with four men holding the position since the inaugural season in Vancouver. Jerry West is the most famous of these, having been a star on the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire career as a player.