Death of a Franchise: The Grizzlies’ Exit from Vancouver

Vancouver Grizzlies

Once upon a time, the NBA decided that there should be two basketball franchises in Canada.1

One of these two franchises was the Vancouver Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies lasted in Vancouver for only six seasons and were marred by a combination of bad luck and stupid decision-making.2 The only credit to their legacy was how sweet their uniforms were.

And although it’s not uncommon for teams to move3, this was the first one that I really experienced as an NBA fan. So I thought it best to examine how a franchise could be so bad that they’d be forced to relocate less than a decade after their inception. I think the reasons can basically be explained through a video from 1997. Each year of their existence, the Vancouver Grizzlies would put out a promotional video about the past season while simultaneously hyping the upcoming one. Imagine if someone punched you in the face, then showed you a video of it while saying, “See, it wasn’t THAT bad! And it’ll be better this time!”

Well, get ready to be punched in the face with a fistful of terrible:

The video is definitely worth a watch. The sound is terrible, the video quality is terrible, but it is so inherently “’90s” it’s not even funny. I guess this was supposed to fire up the Vancouver fans, or more likely beg them to still come to games. But after watching it I can’t help think that it probably had the opposite effect. You know what? If you haven’t already, don’t watch the video, I’ll provide you with the only parts that are relevant.4

Then head coach and general manager Stu Jackson narrates the video. And although he’s been a successful NBA executive, Stu Jackson doesn’t exactly have the look of a guy who’s bringing you a championship. Besides, having the same person serve as both head coach and GM usually doesn’t work out that well.5

If you DO decide to watch the video, I’d suggest keeping that picture link of Stu Jackson open in a separate window. Like watching Breaking Bad’s “story sync”, it only enhances your experience.

Let’s break it down…

We've Come A Long Way Together

Okay– good start. Sounds positive. I mean you have only been a franchise for two years, so the “long way” that’s being described sounds a little creepy girlfriend-ish. But in their defense, the Grizzlies went a combined 29-135 in those two seasons, so I guess as a fan, you might have felt like you’d just come a long way.

The video then proceeds with a minute and a half montage of what, I can only guess, they think has happened over the past two seasons. I mean other than them having a terrible basketball team.

Magic Johnson

There’s a picture of Magic Johnson putting on a Grizzlies hat because… because this video makes no sense.6

Bryant Reeves


Drafting 6th overall in 1995, the Vancouver Grizzlies used their first pick as a franchise to select Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, center out of Oklahoma State.7 Reeves was a big, injury prone white guy whose game lacked any type of flair or creative style. Aside from that though, he was an awesome pick.8

After two seasons, the Grizzlies blessed him with six-year, $61.8 million contract extension. Two seasons after that he was forced to retire due to weight-control issues and said injury prone-ness. He now runs a cattle ranch in Oklahoma City, because that’s what you do when you’re a guy who looks like this.

Here’s the rest of the list of Grizzlies 1st round draft picks while in Vancouver:

  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Best player they drafted, part of a loaded 1996 draft class)9
  • Roy Rogers (No, not that Roy Rogers)
  • Antonio Daniels (Traded after his rookie season)
  • Mike Bibby (Solid starter)
  • Steve Francis (Demanded to be traded the night of the draft)10
  • Stromile Swift (Bust, in the truest sense of the word)11

Alright, let’s continue

Blue Overalls Girls

There’s also someone wearing, what looks like, either a smock or navy blue overalls. I don’t even have a joke, I’m just confused. The people responsible for this video thought this was someone who captured the essence of being a Grizzlies fan.

Michael Jordan

Also, they have about 5-6 shots dedicated to Michael Jordan. I can only assume that when your team is as bad as Vancouver’s was, the real draw is watching great players from other teams come in and single-handedly demolish your own team.

Losing is Learning

Sure… It’s also still losing. Thankfully, this young Grizzlies team did wholeeeeeeeee lot of learning. (Editor’s note, courtesy of Mike Disiena: “I can imagine this as a theme of Republican Party fundraising for years to come.”)

Stu Jackson

Finally, we get some Stu Jackson.

Stu Jackson: “There was a temptation to go for the older veterans when we built our team… We might have won more games.”

This is not taken out of context. This is an actual quote from the video. If I’m Stu Jackson, why not just say that you wanted to start young? Why let people know that you’re an idiot? Did I mention that in less than six years this team was moved to Memphis? I did? Okay, good.

You may be saying to yourself, “Rory, I mean that’s a pretty stupid quote, but it’s not like he said NUMEROUS stupid things during the video… Right?”


Stu Jackson: “Our guys were all great players…But that was college. This is the NBA.”

“Our guys we’re good in college, but this is the NBA! Our players aren’t THAT good!” Once again, this guy was their head coach AND general manger. He drafted these players. He’s talking about the players he drafted. Good times.

Stu Jackson: “Every time your guy is sitting on the bench, he’s watching, not learning.”

I thought losing was learning? I’m confused.

Stu Jackson: “Players are going to want to come here.”

Will they? Steve Francis says otherwise.

After watching this video, I’m not really sure Stu Jackson even knows how to tie his own shoelaces.

So far – We have had a 1:30 montage of ridiculous images, followed by another 2 minutes of Stu Jackson telling us how terrible the team was, evidenced by Grizzlies players missing shots, making depressing faces, and falling on the ground. What could possibly be next?

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.38.54 PM

Of course this is next.

Nothing Like a Grizzlies Game

This is probably true, but not in a good way. Not the best idea to draw attention to this fact.

Weird Guy

This isn’t me repeating an image. They showed this guy again. Seriously: They decided that this guy was such a blast that THEY SHOWED HIS ASS AGAIN. Why even show him in the first place? As a way to show how white your fan base is? Are we sure Rob Ford was never the mayor of Vancouver? I need answers.

Without You

Right, because with the fans, this makes them– wait a second, what else could it possibly make them? What else would they even want to be? Doesn’t “NBA” stand for National Basketball Association? What the hell is going on in this video? I’d love to know what they COULD be with fans. A cult?

We Are the Grizzlies

We conclude with a two minute montage of “highlights”. I use this term loosely, because usually highlights are stimulating, exciting and consist of more than just layups. This montage is more like what would happen if the creator of “Pure Moods” was in charge of putting music over basketball.12 That might have been the case.



You’re welcome, Stu.

Stu Jackson

About Rory Goulding

Rory is a Long Island native working in sports production, spending his time between New York and Connecticut. Rory is an avid football fan, and lover of all things basketball not named LeBron James. He spends his free time competing in professional hopscotch tournaments.
Twitter: @DoogieSchrat

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