So, there were rumours in the last couple of weeks of Vancouver possibly once again being home to an NBA franchise. In this case, the rumour was that the Sacramento Kings were possibly relocating and one of the possible destinations was maybe, possibly Van-city.
When I heard this I immediately thought about how when they were first around how much I couldn't stand their uniforms. Now I'm scouring high and low for one on Ebay where I know I'll be taking up a career in petty crime to be able to afford it.
Anyway, the rumours were subsequently quelled and I was left thinking about the team that once played to sparse crowds in the Vancouver. I may not have liked the team all that much but there were some good players that have suited up. Now most of the kids you see nowadays wearing the Grizzlies snapbacks or fullback caps that have become popular with the young, tight jean wearing crowd may not even know who these players were but came up with my top five Grizz players. No judgement here and it's my list anyway so here we go ...
1) Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1996-01)
'Reef is the best player that ever wore the Vancouver jersey and is was exactly what the team needed - a young star willing to stick it out in the city. Drafted 3rd overall in 1996 ahead of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, he quietly played the game, never causing a stir, despite the player that he was and the record that team had in his five years. He never made an All Star Team while playing north of the border and that is a shame. He only averaged 19.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1 spg and 1 bpg in his five year stint and only missed three out of a possible 378 games (there was a lockout in 199-00 remember). This dude did all that AND he didn't eat or drink when he observed Ramadan in the middle of the season. Shareef never got his due when he was playing in Canada (my apologies the video is grainy) but I hope he knows that I respected him for being a class guy.
2) Felipe Lopez (1998-00)
Now I loved this guy when he was at St. John's playing along side Toronto's own (actually Scarborough's own) Rowan Barrett and I was thrilled when he signed on with Vancouver. I knew that he wasn't a very good defender nor was he a very good shooter (.432 FG%, .327 3PT FG% and .659 FT% for his career) but he was pretty good going to the hoop. He was a slasher extraordinaire and he could finish. I was mesmerized by him at St. John's and I was still when he played for the Grizz. I wish his career could have lasted longer and finished up better (he never did live up to the "Next Jordan" tag he got coming out of high school) but I'll always have the memory of Lopez salsa dancing with Willow Bay on NBA Inside Stuff.
3) Lawrence Moten (1995-97)
Now here is another guy that came over from the Big East Conference. Like Lopez, he was a big name guy but Moten actually had a complete game to back it up. He came into the NBA as the all time leading scorer in Big East history at the time surpassing the great Chris Mullin. Unfortunately for Mr. Poetry in Moten, the success he had in college didn't translate when he got the League. He only spent two seasons with the Grizzlies and he averaged a respectable 6.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists in about 15 minutes per but he, like his conference counterpart Lopez, he shoot a horrible percentage from every possible part of the floor (.408 FG%, .299 3PT FG% and .652 FT%). There didn't seem to be a glaring need for a SG who defended well but shot terribly at the time (my how times have changed right John Wall) so he slowly vanished into the sunset. At least he kept the high socks trend going for a while.
4) Cherokee Parks (1998-00)
Cherokee Parks is not an overwhelming specimen at all. He wasn't the strongest or the biggest or the quickest or even the prettiest but he still is one of my fave Grizzlies. Nothing about his career in Vancouver, or in general, will blow you away statistically (he's got a career 4.4 ppg and 3.4 rpg averages) but he was a colorful dude. He was from Duke (which I didn't like at all) but he liked punk rock, grunge and metal in the NBA when it wasn't cool and his sister was in a speed metal band (The band is Nashville Pussy [sidebar - my wife opened for them in Toronto once with her band when she was in high school] and was at the time pretty attractive to me). Before every dude and his mom had tats in the League, Parks was THE guy to have them clearly visible. To top it all off, he was a great interview. He was Birdman before Birdman complete with the requisite poster dunks, ahem, I mean getting postered. God I miss Cherokee.
5) Byron Scott (1996)
Yes, that Byron Scott. The Byron Scott that has three NBA Championship rings from the Showtime Lakers. That Byron Scott who now coaches. He spent the inaugural season with the team and one of the expansion picks that year but in his one year he had an impact. He was on the tail end of this career and he knew it so accepted his fate with the fledgling team. He mentored the young guys and found time to put up 10.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in his 23.7 minutes per game. He also brought a sense of class and professionalism to Vancouver which was in dire need of it when they trekked through this new basketball frontier. There was nothing like seeing a player of Scott's skill and history willingly donning the Grizz jersey and speaking nothing but highly of the team and the city. I had a respect for him when he played with the play off bound teams of LA and Indiana but never more when I watched him play for Vancouver.