The role of Ace Ventura is one of Jim Carrey’s more prominent roles with his different iterations of “Loser!” bringing joy to us all. For years, Ace Ventura would have been in heaven in the city of Memphis as the professional basketball teams were often just that, losers. The ABA teams of yesteryear never hosted a winning season. For 26 years, April 1, 1975 was the last time there was a professional basketball victory in the city of Memphis when the Memphis Sounds defeated the Virginia Squires 121-102 and even then that was a part of a 27-57 season. The city of Memphis would then become the home of the Vancouver Grizzlies who too were known for losing. The team never came remotely close to a .500 record in their five seasons in Vancouver before their relocation.
The 2001-02 season was the 6th year of the franchise’s existence, and the Memphis Grizzlies were still very much a work-in-progress. Veterans Lorenzen Wright and Jason Williams along with rookie Pau Gasol had some early season success, but inconsistent play from others meant these performances didn’t equate to winning. The Grizzlies started the season with 8 consecutive losses including blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. The Grizzlies competed but they just couldn’t put it all together to get a win.
Things were bleak as the Grizzlies entered this game starting the season 0-8. After a competitive first quarter that only saw the Grizzlies trail by one, a familiar feeling fell over the Pyramid as they fell behind in the 2nd quarter culminating in a 11-point deficit entering halftime. After the break, a switch flipped for the Grizzlies. They simply couldn’t miss slowly chopping away at the lead in the third before pulling away in the 4th quarter. This is thanks to the 50% team shooting percentage including the Grizzlies shooting 4-5 from deep and a 73% shooting percentage that saw the Grizzlies make a killing in the mid-range shooting 6-7 from that area of the floor. This offensive efficiency led to the tide turning, and the Grizzlies securing their first victory as the Memphis Grizzlies and the first in the Memphis Pyramid in front of ~ 14,000 raucous Grizz fans with a 98-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were led by Lamond Murray, the game’s leading scorer, with a 27-point, 16-rebound double-double. Cavaliers point guard Andre Miller added a double-double of his own with a 13-point, 15-assist performance.
The Grizzlies finished with four players in double figures, with rookie Shane Battier leading the way with 20 points that included two clutch threes that helped narrow the Cavaliers lead in the 3rd quarter. This continued a hot streak for Battier, as he was coming off a 30-point breakout performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in the previous game. This game gave Grizzlies fans the first flash of what made “White Chocolate” Jason Williams special as he finished with 16 points, 14 assists, and 3 steals. Pau Gasol, Stromile Swift, & Lorenzen Wright formed a three-headed monster down low for the Grizzlies accumulating nearly half of the Grizzlies offensive production, combining for 47 points — including a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double from Gasol.
A run-of-the-mill regular season game in November is not something people generally remember due to how low stakes the game is, but it was still important. This game not only gave the franchise its first win in its new home, and its first win as the “Memphis” Grizzlies, but it showed the potential the Grizzlies possessed. While it took some time and a coaching change for the potential of the original Memphis Grizzlies core to be realized, the move to Memphis wasn’t a mistake, as energy radiated throughout the Pyramid as the Grizzlies formally christened their new home on a Saturday night in November.
What are you favorite memories from the Grizzlies inaugural season in Memphis?
Catch up on the rest of Memphis Grizztory below:
Part 1 ABA comes to Memphis
Part 2 Rise and Fall of Memphis Pros
Part 3 Memphis Grizzlies opening night in the Pyramid
Part 4 Memphis TAMS chaotic two year tenure