The Vancouver Grizzlies joined the NBA in 1995, alongside the Toronto Raptors. This expansion, the NBA's first expansion since 1989, was triggered by a strong Toronto proposal. Commish David Stern and the NBA brass felt that their first expansion ouside the US would seem stronger with two new teams. As a result, they accepted a relatively weak Vancouver bid as well. Thus were the Grizzlies born. They had some strengths. They started with a beautiful new arena, GM Place to play in. They had a beautiful city for a home town. But what they didn't have was much talent, or a large and dedicated fan base to support them, or much corporate sponsorship.
Initially, things looked promising when the Grizzlies hit the court and won their first game at Portland 92-80.
It was a ray of false hope, however -- the Grizz went 15-67 that season, 14-68 the next, and a third-year
surge took them to 19-63. The next year the Grizzlies went 8-42 in the lockout-shortened season.
The Grizzlies improved slightly in their final two years in Vancouver, going 22-60 in 1999-2000 and 23-59 in 2000-2001.
The Vancouver franchise never made it to, or even near, the NBA playoffs.
During the six seasons in Vancouver, the Grizz set a new NBA futilty standard. They left town with a franchise mark of 101-359, the fastest franchise to reach 300 losses (in just 377 games!). Their season ticket base in the final season was a puny 4,800 seats.
In some ways, the deck was stacked against the new teams from the beginning as the NBA changed the rules for expansion teams before allowing the Grizzlies and Raptors into the league. The two teams were faced with salary cap restrictions that limited each to 2/3 of the cap of established teams, and were not allowed a chance at the top lottery pick from the draft for their first 5 years in the league. Poor draft decisions, strange trades and terrible contracts that put the Grizzlies in salary cap trouble compounded their woes.
Finally, in 2001, the NBA threw in the towel, and allowed the team to relocate to Memphis. It was the league's first franchise relocation since the Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985.
For now, the Memphis Grizzlies play at The Pyramid, a $65 million arena opened in 1991. A new $250 million arena and a name change are expected by 2004.