The NBA flourishes in Toronto. There’s no arguing that. Ever since Canada’s most populous city was granted a team in 1993 fan interest continues to grow every year. From the first game in 1995 to the Raptors back-to-back-to-back division titles the last three years, a message has been sent loud and clear across the league from fans up north. Basketball is here to stay.
That wasn’t the case for Toronto’s partner in the ’93 expansion though. The rapid growth of the Raptors was mirrored by the decline of professional hoops in Western Canada. The Vancouver Grizzlies entered the league with Toronto, but didn’t stay long. It only took six seasons for the Grizzlies to make a hasty retreat to Memphis.
Only once in those six seasons did the Grizzlies manage to avoid finishing last in their division. Vancouver achieved its highest win total in its final season in Canada, going 23-59 in 2000-01. With such a brief stay in the NBA, some may think it hard to compile a list of the 15 greatest Vancouver Grizzlies. They’re right. We’ve elected to share that list with you anyway, and let you know what these guys have been up to since walking off the hardwood.
15 Sam Mack
Sam Mack’s collegiate career included stops at Iowa State, Arizona State, Tyler Junior College, and Houston. He was involved in multiple brushes with the law during that time, and despite averaging 17.5 points per game for the Cougars in 1991-92, went undrafted. He managed to get a 40 game audition with the San Antonio Spurs in 1992, was waived, and then signed a couple of 10 day contracts with Houston that turned into a couple of seasons with the Rockets. Houston sent Mack to Vancouver for a second round draft pick in 1997, and that’s when the journeyman really began to flourish.
Mack spent parts of two seasons with the Grizzlies, totaling 76 games. He was Vancouver’s starting shooting guard in that time, and in 1998-99 he ranked eighth in the league in three-pointers made (87), 14th in three-pointers attempted (214) and 17th in three-point percentage (.397). He was traded back to the Rockets in 1999 with a couple of Grizzlies shooting records on his resume.
Most recently Mack returned to the spotlight owing to his romantic relationship with Mob Wives star Renee Graziano.
14 George Lynch
George Lynch was the #12 overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1993 NBA Draft. The North Carolina product spent three seasons in Southern California before he was jettisoned to Vancouver, along with Anthony Peeler, to free up the money Los Angeles used to sign future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal.
Vancouver agreed with Lynch, who found his calling as a backup to Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The all time career leader in steals at UNC averaged eight points and five rebounds per game while with the Grizzlies, providing great depth at the power forward position. After 123 games in Canada he signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. A three year starter with the Sixers, Lynch announced his retirement in 2005 as a member of the New Orleans Hornets.
In 2012, Lynch joined the Southern Methodist University basketball staff as an assistant. Today he is the team's Director of Player Development.
13 Grant Long
Grant Long knew the NBA well by the time his career found its way to Vancouver in 1999. The Eastern Michigan University legend spent six plus seasons with the Miami Heat, three with the Atlanta Hawks, and two with the Detroit Pistons before joining the Grizzlies in 1999.
Long’s tenure in Vancouver was short, but sweet. The veteran thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Grizzlies and has remarked before that he’d like to see a team return to Western Canada. Long was a solid contributor while in Vancouver. He was a part-time starter whose leadership was sorely needed on one of the youngest teams in the league. Long made the move with the team to Memphis, playing there for one season, before ending his career with the Boston Celtics in 2003.
Long pursued sports broadcasting aspirations after retirement. In 2008 he began working as an analyst on Oklahoma City Thunder broadcasts. In 2014 he joined Fox Sports Detroit as a sideline reporter.
12 Stromile Swift
While the Vancouver experience was at the tail end of Grant Long’s career, it was where Stromile Swift got his start. The Grizzlies selected Swift with the second overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, making the power forward out of LSU the last first round pick in Vancouver’s NBA history.
Modest beginnings led into a prosperous career with the Grizzlies franchise, so I’m giving Vancouver all of the credit. In his rookie season Swift averaged 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds, mostly drawing attention for his awareness on the defensive end of the floor. Appearing in 80 games in 2000-01, he’d end up spending a total of seven seasons with the Grizzlies, and was the last player who was with the team in Vancouver to make his exit from the NBA.
Swift largely avoids the public eye today, save for a criminal case in 2012 where he was convicted of stalking and sending threatening messages to a woman.
11 Otis Thorpe
Otis Thorpe had a strange journey in his NBA career. It began 1984 with the Kansas City Kings. They would move a season later to their new home in Sacramento. It ended with the Charlotte Hornets in 2001. In between Thorpe spent time with six different teams, including a season with the Grizzlies in 1998.
Did I say a season? Because I meant 47 games. But Thorpe’s time in Vancouver was impressive enough that I’m including him on this list anyway. During that season, Thorpe was third on the team in scoring with 11.2 points per game, and led the Grizzlies in rebounding, grabbing just shy of eight per contest. Not bad for a 35 year-old on a team like the 1997-98 Grizzlies. Vancouver traded Thorpe back to Sacramento in February of ‘98.
Thorpe's longest stretch with one team was the time he spent with the Houston Rockets from 1988-95. Today he calls Austin, Texas home and works in the real estate field.
10 Tony Massenburg
Few players in the history of the NBA are as well traveled as Tony Massenburg. He had been with eight NBA teams, including the Toronto Raptors, and three international squads before he arrived in Vancouver in the fall of 1997. Massenburg was acquired via a trade with the Boston Celtics, who received Roy Rogers in the swap.
It was in Vancouver that Massenburg found his greatest success. Acquired as a backup for Bryant Reeves, the Maryland alum made the most of his court time. In total he’d spend four seasons with the Grizzlies, scoring a career high 11.2 points per game in the 1998-99 season. Massenburg would make the transition from Vancouver to Memphis, and retired after one season apiece with the Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs.
Like many of his peers, Massenburg entered into broadcasting after retirement, joining Comcast SportsNet Washington.
9 Byron Scott
Plenty of NBA fans think back to the career of three-time NBA champion Byron Scott, and it’s easy to forget that he was a member of the inaugural Vancouver Grizzlies team. But he was there, and for 80 games in 1995-96, he was good.
A critical piece of the “Showtime” era Los Angeles Lakers, Scott was selected by the Grizzlies in the NBA’s expansion draft after spending two seasons with the Indiana Pacers. Scott’s professional basketball career was coming to a close, but at 34 years-old he came off the bench for 80 games and averaged better than 10 points per contest. Providing much need veteran leadership in Vancouver’s first season, he was waived the following summer to make way for younger options. Scott played one more season with the Lakers before retiring.
Today, Scott's name is brought up anytime there's a head coaching vacancy in the NBA. He's delivered mixed results. He went to the Finals back to back with the Nets in 2002 and 2003. There's been little positive since then. He was fired from the Lakers last season after winning just 38 games in two seasons.
8 Othella Harrington
Allen Iverson’s former teammate at Georgetown turned a solid year with the Grizzlies into a lengthy and impressive NBA career that spanned 12 years with five different franchises. Yes, big man Othella Harrington certainly made the most of the opportunity provided to him in Vancouver.
Harrington was a member of the Houston Rockets when he became part of a three-way trade that sent him up north before the 1999-00 season. In his first season with the Grizzlies he set career highs, averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’d spend another season in Vancouver before he was included in a trade with the New York. Three seasons with the Knicks turned into two years with the Chicago Bulls. Harrington retired in 2008 after two seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Most recently Harrington took a job at his alma mater. He served as Director of Basketball Operations for four seasons.
7 Anthony Peeler
Number seven on our list is a player who is perhaps best know as a member of Vancouver’s squad in the video game classic, NBA Jam. Maybe you didn’t often select the Grizzlies as your team, but they were always among the first opponents you had to face. Anthony Peeler joined the Grizzlies when he was part of a trade package put together by the Lakers in the 1996 offseason. His stay was short, but impactful.
Peeler made an immediate impact in Vancouver. In his first season with the Grizzlies he was third on the team in scoring, averaging a career high 14.5 points per contest. Peeler spent just 80 games with the Grizzlies, before the struggling franchise shipped him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Doug West in February of 1998.
When his time in the NBA had come to an end, Peeler returned to Virginia Union University to finish his degree. He eventually joined the basketball team as an assistant.
6 Blue Edwards
Certainly, Blue Edwards would be included on most fans’ “All-Name Team” but he has the added distinction of being on the short list of greatest players in Vancouver history.
Unlike many of the others on this list, Edwards has plenty of games to his credit. 224 in fact, spanning three seasons in a career that totaled 10 with five different teams. Starting all 82 games in the Grizzlies’ inaugural season, Edwards was fourth on the team in scoring, and recorded the first triple-double in franchise history on March 1, 1996 against the Dallas Mavericks. He was the only Vancouver player to start every game that season, and his last second shot against the Timberwolves prevented the Grizzlies from tying the NBA record for consecutive losses at 23.
"What Color Is Love?" is a made-for-tv movie revolving around Edwards' child custody battle that originated while he was with the Grizzlies. Today he lives and coaches basketball in North Carolina.
5 Bryant Reeves
Placing Bryant Reeves at number five on this list may seem a little low for some. He’s arguably the most recognizable figure in Vancouver Grizzlies history. So to be clear, yes I’m bumping him down the list due to his work ethic, constantly being out of shape, and widely held belief that he is one of the biggest “busts” in NBA history.
There was a time when many thought Reeves could carry the Vancouver franchise on his back, though.. He was the first pick in Grizzlies history when he was selected 6th in 1995. He spent his entire career in Vancouver, peaking when he averaged 16.3 points in the 1997-98 season. “Big Country” signed a six-year $68 million contract extension with the Grizzlies in 1997. He was out of the league four years later.
After retirement Reeves returned to the farm life. He lives on a large cattle ranch in his hometown of Gans, Oklahoma.
4 Greg Anthony
Another expansion selection of the Grizzlies here. New York Knicks guard Greg Anthony was the first pick of Vancouver in the summer before the team’s first season. Toronto chose B.J. Armstrong of the Chicago Bulls with the first overall pick. The UNLV product had four NBA seasons under his belt when he was selected by the newest team in the Western Conference.
As the starting point guard on that first Grizzlies squad, Anthony had the most impressive season of his 11-year NBA career. From a statistical standpoint, anyway. He led the team in both points (14.0) and assists (6.9), which are also career highs. After a pair of seasons in Vancouver, Anthony’s journeyman career found its way to Seattle, Portland, and finally Chicago before he retired from professional basketball to pursue a broadcasting career in 2003.
Plenty of basketball fans know of Anthony today. He's a well-known analyst for CBS and Turner Sports.
3 Michael Dickerson
Michael Dickerson deserves to be at the top of this list, or maybe a different list, just for publicly expressing how much he enjoyed his time in Vancouver. Not many Grizzlies alumni have said that. Dickerson’s stay was short though, just like his NBA career.
Dickerson played one season with the Houston Rockets before being traded to the Grizzlies. His first season in Vancouver, 1999-00, was masterful. Dickerson pumped in better than 18 points per contest and started all 82 games. Injuries began to take their toll, however. A year later he played in 70 games, his scoring average dropping to 16.3. After that season the team relocated to Memphis, and Dickerson would only appear in 10 more games. After a failed comeback attempt in 2008, his NBA career game to a close.
Dickerson traveled the world after his retirement. His basketball diet consisted of occasionally helping out at University of British Columbia Thunderbirds practices.
2 Mike Bibby
A first round draft pick of the Grizzlies in 1998, Mike Bibby spent three seasons in Vancouver, and etched his name into the record books while he was there. Before he was traded to the Sacramento Kings in 2001, Bibby played and started in every single Grizzlies game, and was a difference maker.
He got better each year he was in Vancouver. His first year he averaged 13.2 points and was named to the All-Rookie First team. A year later his scoring output increased to 14.5, and the next season it jumped again to 15.9. Similarly, his rebounding, assist, and shooting percentage numbers spiked considerably. After his time with the Grizzlies, Bibby was a critical piece on the Sacramento squads that became playoff regulars for the better part of a decade.
Post retirement, Bibby began coaching on the high school level, joining his alma mater, Shadow Mountain High School, in 2013.
1 Shareef Abdur-Rahim
If you had any other name at the top of your list, I’m shocked. Shareef Abdur-Rahim is miles ahead of any player to ever pull on a Vancouver Grizzlies jersey. It’s just a shame that the power forward worked in relative obscurity up north, and few truly appreciated how great he was.
Abdur-Rahim joined the Grizzlies in year two and made an immediate impact. Averaging better than 18 points a game and just shy of seven rebounds as a rookie, he’d become a 20/10 guy by year four. He was named to the All-Rookie First team in 1997. If professional basketball was every going to make it in Vancouver, this guy was the reason why. The greatest player in Vancouver Grizzlies history would end up being traded away in 2001 as part of a deal that included Pau Gasol. Abdur-Rahim retired in 2008 with career averages of 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Abdur-Rahim got back to work on his academic career after professional basketball. He graduated from Cal-Berkley with a degree in sociology and a 3.8 GPA in 2012 before earning an MBA from USC last year.