Quick Intro: Memphis Grizzlies History
The Memphis Grizzlies were not always the Memphis Grizzlies. The team got its start as the Vancouver Grizzlies as an expansion franchise along with the Toronto Raptors in 1995. During their time north of the boarder, the Vancouver Grizzlies finished in last place for four straight seasons (from 1995-1999). The bad luck continued as Grizzlies attendance declined after the NBA lockout and the owners, Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, began to lose money. Bill Laurie, owner of St. Louis’s NHL team the Blues, attempted to buy the Grizzlies; however, the NBA rejected the deal because Laurie intended to move the team to St. Louis. Eventually the NBA struck a deal with businessman Michael Heisley who acquired the team in 2000 and kept the Grizzlies in Vancouver.
Attendance continued to decline after Heisley bought the team, and the franchise applied to be transferred the same day as the Charlotte Hornets, March 26, 2001. The Grizzlies’ request was granted and they were moved to Memphis in 2001, becoming the furthest city to the East to compete in the Western conference. Heisley remained the majority owner, controlling a 95 percent share, with the remaining five percent split between several local owners including AutoZone founder J.R. Hyde, his wife Barbara Hyde, Staley Cates, and former NBA player and University of Memphis point guard Elliot Perry. The Grizzlies played their home games at the famous Memphis Pyramid in the heart of downtown Memphis.
The Grizzlies’ first year in Memphis (2001-2002) surpassed expectations. The franchise added eight players to their roster; including former University of Memphis star Lorenzen Wright, Shane Battier, and the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft, Pau Gasol. One of the most notable wins of the inaugural season was the December 21, 2001 matchup with the defending World Champion L.A. Lakers. The Grizzlies answered the “Beat LA” call from their fans and defeated the Lakers 114 to 108. After the 2001 season Pau Gasol was named NBA Rookie of the Year award.
After the 2001-2002 season, General Manager Billy Knight was let go and the Grizzlies hired former Lakers hall of famer Jerry West. Coach Sydney Lowe was replaced by Hubie Brown. The changes proved beneficial as the team quickly changed their reputation and became a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, making the play-offs for the first time in franchise history in the spring of 2004. That same season Shane Battier was presented with a divisional NBA Sportsmanship Award, President of Basketball Operations, Jerry West, was named the Sports Illustrated NBA Executive of the Year, and Grizzlies Head Coach Hubie Brown was also named NBA Coach of the Year.
In 2005, the Memphis Grizzlies moved their home court to the state of the art FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies made the playoffs for three straight seasons until finishing with the league’s worst record in 2006-2007. After the season ended, the Grizzlies hired highly-regarded Suns assistant coach Marc Iavaroni as the team’s new head coach. In 2007 the Grizzlies brought on former Boston Celtics General Manager Chris Wallace as the franchise's General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations to replace the retired Jerry West. The same year Memphis basketball legend Gene Bartow was named the Grizzlies' President of Basketball Operations. In 2009 head coach Marc Iavaroni was fired and replaced by Lionel Hollins.