The Memphis Grizzlies were once known as the Vancouver Grizzlies, one of two NBA teams in Canada at the time (the other being the Toronto Raptors). Despite a quarter-century as a team, the now-Memphis Grizzlies have only managed to capture 50 or more wins per season only 4 times. Now, it’s time to find out how this struggling team went from one of Canada’s only professional basketball teams to a staple in the Memphis, Tennessee area.
The Beginning Years
The 1980s brought a huge push to bring professional basketball in the form of an NBA franchise to Canada, a move initiated by an NHL team owner by the name of Arthur Griffiths. By 1993, the NBA approved a $125 million expansion into Canada in the form of two teams: The Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. Team owners chose Stu Jackson as the first General Manager as well as Head Coach Brian Winters, a man who coached alongside Lenny Wilkens.
The original team name was meant to be the Mounties, which didn’t go over well given the similarity to the official title of the Canadian police force. The name “Grizzlies” was ultimately chosen based on the population of grizzly bears in Canada. The first few seasons for the Vancouver Grizzlies were littered with defeat, given limitations by the NBA in the form of salary caps and draft picks.
The first season as a team in 1995 highlighted the struggles of a brand new team and consisted of a 19-game and a 23-game losing streak to finish the season with a disheartening 15-67 record. The 1996 Draft brought newcomer Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who led the team in points with an impressive 19 points per game. However, the next season resulted in a shake-up in the coaching staff and a mere 14 wins in the entire season.
As the Vancouver Grizzlies continued to have trouble, fewer fans began showing up to home games to support their players. By 1998, the team was having trouble staying afloat financially and was eventually sold to Michael Heisley for a whopping $160 million. Out of several cities to choose from, the NBA ultimately approved relocation to Memphis, Tennessee in 2001. While based out of Vancouver, the team had not achieved a record greater than .280.
The Memphis Grizzlies have had four logos since 1995.
1995 - 2000
From 1995 to 2000, the team sported a teal jersey with the then-logo (minus the grizzly bear) on the front.
2000 - 2001
Between 2000 and the departure from Vancouver in 2001, players wore mostly black jerseys with the name “Vancouver” written on the front in white lettering. The side of the jersey included red and teal vertical stripes.
2001 - 2004
After moving to Memphis in 2001, the Grizzlies switched to an all-black jersey with the name “Memphis” on the front in all capital white lettering. Teal and red stripes went down the sides.
2004 - 2018
The 2004 season in Memphis brought an entirely updated jersey, appearing quite similar to today’s jersey. This jersey was a navy blue with all lettering in a light blue and white front. The font used for lettering was the same as the logo.
2018 - Today
The Grizzlies introduced their slightly altered current jerseys in 2018. This version features an all-white jersey with a blue stripe and the last name under the number.