When the NBA expanded to Canada they had two teams, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. One in the West and one in the East. Being that totally counter-culture guy, and one living in Ontario a few hours away from the Greater Toronto Area, I decided to root for the Grizzlies. They had fewer fans. Were in a tougher conference. And I just wanted them to do okay. So I watched them play a lot of games. From their first season with Bryant Reeves sweating all over the place to Doug West becoming an alcoholic after being traded to them to the rise of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and other great moments. I was really invested in those Sidney Lowe coached teams that were based around Abdur-Rahim, Mike Bibby, and other younger players. That team would run out of gas in the early 4th quarter.
It wasn’t always bad. I enjoyed watching Blue Edwards play for them (and get into off-court trouble). I loved seeing them make the slow climb up — but Steve Francis really spiked that.
But the number one thing I really remember about the Grizz was that they just couldn’t beat the Jazz. For reals. Utah won the first 16 games. And they would win 19 of their first 20 games against the expansion team. When they moved to Memphis, and had Pau Gasol, they fought back pretty hard, but he was gone way too soon. Here’s the breakdown of their entire franchise head-to-head history (51-26 in favor of the Jazz, btw):
There were some really big beatdowns, and a steady cycle of wins when Deron Williams joined the Jazz. Things turned again in the Tyrone Corbin era of the Jazz, but hey, those days are over now. When you look at the final score frequency distribution you see that the Jazz have absolutely owned this match-up.
I have to be a Toronto Raptors supporter now, even though I’d love to see the NBA expand back to the pacific northwest again sometime soon (bring back the Seattle Supersonics! bring back a Vancouver team)!
As for tonight, I hope the Jazz win and keep their streak going. As for Memphis, I don’t know if they’ll ever make an NBA Finals, or even the West Finals again with their core of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. I wish them the best, and know that the Grizzlies were always a really cool team. Even if Steve “Ruin a Franchise” didn’t know that pot was legal there, and pouted his way to the Houston Rockets on draft night.
Vancouver is cool. I’ve only been to Tennessee once, and it was kinda cool too. But overall the Jazz have owned both.