This article is about the defunct Vancouver basketball team. For the current incarnation of the team, see Memphis Grizzlies.
1995–2001 Memphis Grizzlies 2001–present
|Arena||General Motors Place|
|City||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
|Team colors||Turquoise, black, red, bronze
|Owner(s)||Arthur Griffiths (1995–2000)
Michael Heisley (2000–2001)
|General manager||Stu Jackson (1994–2000)
Billy Knight (2000–2001)
|Head coach||Brian Winters (1995–1997)|
The Vancouver Grizzlies were a professional basketball team based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They were part of the Midwest Division of the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The team was established in 1995, along with the Toronto Raptors, as part of the NBA's expansion into Canada. Following the 2000–01 season, the team relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, United States, and now plays as the Memphis Grizzlies. The Vancouver Grizzlies played their home games during their six seasons at General Motors Place.
Like most expansion teams, the Grizzlies struggled in their early years. The team finished last in the division in five of its seasons, and never managed to hit a .300 win percentage. In total it won 101 matches and lost 359 and never reached the playoffs. The two expansion teams were denied early draft picks in the first season, but the Grizzlies secured Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 1996. The team continued to lose games despite high draft picks, and after selecting Steve Francis as second pick in 1999, who denied to play in Vancouver and was traded away. After the 1998–99 lockout, lower attendance and a weak Canadian dollar caused the owner Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment to start losing money on the franchise. After a failed attempt to sell the team to Bill Laurie, it was instead sold to Michael Heisley and subsequently moved.
Mike Bibby, here pictured in Miami Heat colorsByron Scott pictured in Panathinaikos colors in 1998=== Establishment=== The only former NBA team to play in Canada was the Toronto Huskies, who played a single season in 1946–47 before folding. Attempts had been made by Nelson Skalbania, a local entrepreneur, to get an NBA franchise to Vancouver in the 1980s, but had failed. Arthur Griffiths, owner of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League through Northwest Sports Enterprises, announced in February 1993 that he hoped to bring an NBA franchise to Vancouver. He was working on a private 20,000 seat arena for the Canucks in Downtown Vancouver, which was scheduled for completion for the 1995–96 season. The Toronto Raptors were awarded an expansion franchise for that season on 30 September 1993. On 14 February 1994, the NBA's Expansion Committee gave a preliminary approval for Vancouver, with full approval being granted by the Board of Governors on 27 April. Both franchises paid a fee of US$125 million, up from $32.5 million paid during the 1988–89 expansion. The Grizzlies became the NBA's 29th franchise.
One hindrance for the expansion was that the NBA wanted the Province of British Columbia to abolish wagering on Grizzlies games, specifically by removing the games from the Sports Actions betting. NBA betting accounted for CA$1.56 million in 1993, with the profits going to provincial health care. Similar demands were laid forward in Ontario. There was large public opposition against the league's demands. This issue was resolved on 9 February 1994 after the franchise company agreed to donate $500,000 per year to health care.
The company hired Stu Jackson as general manager on 22 July, who was at the time head coach of the University of Wisconsin Badgers and was previous head coach for the New York Knicks. Jackson started by hiring a scouting department headed by Larry Riley. Original proposals were for the team to be called the Vancouver Mounties, but objections from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police forced the team to find a new name, which was announced on 11 August, named for the bear indigenous to British Columbia. The team colors were announced to be turquoise, bronze and red.
To start playing, the team needed to have sold 12,500 season tickets with 50 percent payment prior to 1 January 1995. This was a number higher than that of the Canucks, and both Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves had seen problems reaching 10,000 during the 1989 expansion. On 21 December 1994, only about 10,000 tickets had been sold when Shoppers Drug Mart purchased the necessary 2,500 tickets to push the team over the limit, in a deal similar to what was necessary in Toronto. On 7 March 1995, the majority of the holding company was sold from Griffiths to Seattle-based John McCaw, Jr.. Brian Winters was announced as head coach on 19 June, who the past nine seasons had been assistant Lenny Wilkens in Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Prior to the drafts, the team signed free agent Kevin Pritchard, the team's first player.
Five days later, the Grizzlies and Raptors attended the 1995 NBA Expansion Draft. Each of the 27 NBA teams could protect eight of their players, and the two expansion teams could in order selected one unprotected player from each team. Vancouver won the coin flip, and opted for a better position in the upcoming draft, allowing the Raptors the first pick. Vancouver's first pick was Knicks' point guard Greg Anthony; other top players were guards Byron Scott and Gerald Wilkins, and swingman Blue Edwards. The team also selected were forward Kenny Gattison, center Benoit Benjamin, forward Larry Stewart, Rodney Dent, Antonio Harvey, Reggie Slater, Trevor Ruffin, Derrick Phelps and Doug Edwards.
Both the Canadian teams were hampered by the NBA's decision to deny them one of the top five picks in the draft. The teams would not be allowed a top draft pick in the following three seasons, even if they should win the lottery. The teams were also hindered from using their full salary cap the first two seasons. In the first draft, the Grizzlies were sixth and selected center Bryant Reeves. Although a solid player, he failed both at carrying the team and, lacking creative style, did not help draw up attendance.
Every year, except the 1998–99 season, the Grizzlies played the Raptors in the pre-season Naismith Cup, held at a neutral venue in Canada. The Grizzlies first official match was against the Portland Trail Blazers; both it and the following game against the Timerwovlves was won. The team followed up by losing 19 straight games, and later set the NBA single-season record of 23 straight losses in February to April. The season ended with 15 wins and 67 losses—the .196 winning percentage being the lowest in the whole league. The team saw an average attendance of 17,183 spectators, 14th in the NBA.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim was selected third overall by the Grizzlies in the 1996 Draft. He made an immediate impact playing for the Grizzlies, becoming the team's leading scorer while setting a franchise record of 18.7 points per game (ppg). He finished third in balloting for the NBA Rookie of the Year and was picked for the All-Rookie First Team. By the end of the 1996–97 season, Abdur-Rahim led the team in scoring on 33 occasions, rebounding on 23 occasions. Abdur-Rahim remained the centerpiece of the team as long as they remained in Vancouver; in the 1998–99 season, he elevated his performance with 23.0 ppg. The Grizzlies traded Anthony Peeler and George Lynch from the Los Angeles Lakers. Winters was removed as coach after 43 games, and replaced for the remaining of the season by Jackson. The 1996–97 season saw the Grizzlies only win 14 games, again the worst in the whole league. 
The 1997–98 season saw the hiring of Brian Hill as head coach. In the draft, Vancouver selected Antonio Daniels with the fourth pick. The team traded to get Otis Thorpe for the 2003 first-round draft pick and Sam Mack for Rodrick Rhodes. Both would however only play a single season for the Grizzlies. The team won 19 games, placing the sixth in the division, ahead of the Denver Nuggets, and 25th overall in the league.
Ahead of the 1998–99 season, Daniels was traded to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Carl Herrera and Felipe Lopez. The Grizzlies signed free agent Cherokee Parks and traded Daniels for the Spurs' Felipe Lopez and Carl Herrera. In the draft, the Grizzlies selected Mike Bibby with a second overall pick. The 1998–99 NBA lockout reduced the season to 50 games. While average attendance league-wide dropped that season, it had a slight increase in Vancouver. The team finished with 8 wins and 42 losses, giving it an all-time low winning percentage of .160. Steve Francis pictured in New York Knicks colors in 2007The Grizzlies again had second pick in the 1999 Draft. Despite having a good point guard in Bibby, they selected Steve Francis. He had hoped to be selected first by the Chicago Bulls, and his managers had several times indicated that he was not interested in playing in Vancouver. He relented and briefly considered joining the Grizzlies, but after an incident at the airport, his manager Jeffrey Fried started trying to get him traded. In what became the biggest deal till then in NBA history, involving eleven players and three teams, Francis and Tony Massenburg were sent to Houston, Michael Smith, Lee Mayberry, Rodrick Rhodes and Makhtar N'Diaye were sent to Orlando Magic, while the Grizzlies received forwards Othella Harrington and Antoine Carr, guards Michael Dickerson and Brent Price, first- and second-round draft picks and cash. Francis would go on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, and was harassed both verbally and physically by fans when he played against the Grizzlies.
The 1999–2000 season saw Lionel Hollins take over as coach after 22 matches, after Hill had only won four games. The season ended with 22 wins and 60 losses, placing the Grizzlies last in the division. The season also saw a large drop in attendance, averaging 13,899, ranking the team 27th in the league.
In the team's final season in Vancouver, Sidney Lowe was hired as head coach. Forward Stromile Swift was selected as the second-overall pick in the draft. The season ended with 23 wins and 59 losses, finishing last in the division. The team's final game at GM Place was against the Rockets on 14 April. The Vancouver Grizzlies' final match was a 95–81 win against the Golden State Warriors on 18 April.
Main article: Vancouver Grizzlies relocation to MemphisFinancially, the 1998 lockout was the turning point for the team. Attendance plummeted from a league average of 16,108 in the 1997–98 season to 13,899 in the 1999–2000 season, which was the third-lowest in the league. Orca Bay started losing money on operations, in part because of a weak Canadian dollar.
Griffiths sold Orca Bay to Seattle-based John McCaw, Jr. in 1995 and 1996. In September 1999, McCaw announced the sale of the Grizzlies, but not the arena or the Canucks, to NHL's St. Louis Blues-owner Bill Laurie for US$200 million. He stated that he intended to move the Grizzlies to St. Louis, but the transaction was stopped by the NBA.
Instead, McCaw sold the team to Chicago-based Michael Heisley for US$160 million. At the time he stated that he intended to keep the team in Vancouver, but immediately started a process to find a suitable relocation city in the US. After initially investigating Memphis, Las Vegas, New Orleans, St. Louis, Anaheim, San Diego, Buffalo and Louisville. Memphis was announced as the preferred site on 26 March, even though a new venue would have to be built there. The NBA Board of Governors approved the move on 4 July.
General Motors Place was the home for the Vancouver GrizzliesMain article: Rogers Arena== Season-by-season record== Main article: List of Memphis Grizzlies seasonsWhile in Vancouver, the Grizzlies always played in the Midwest Division of the Western Conference.
Main article: List of Memphis Grizzlies head coachesLionel HollinsFive people have been head coach for the Vancouver Grizzlies. The following lists the Grizzlies coaches while in Vancouver. It contains games coached (GC), wins (W), losses (L), winning percentage (Win%) and number as coach (#).
|&100000000000000010000001||Winters, BrianBrian Winters||1995–1997||184||36||148||.196|||
|&100000000000000020000002||Jackson, StuStu Jackson||1997||39||6||33||.154|||
|&100000000000000030000003||Hill, BrianBrian Hill||1997–1999||154||31||123||.201|||
|&100000000000000040000004||Hollins, LionelLionel Hollins||1999–2000||60||18||42||.300|||
|&100000000000000050000005||Lowe, SidneySidney Lowe||2000–2001||82||23||59||.280|||