Like most everything over the past week, the absence of Selection Sunday yesterday was truly a surreal experience. The lack of debates, celebrations, polls, brackets, graphics, and everything else associated with March Madness was quite bizarre. Yet, it is just another reminder of the times we are in, with indicators that this “new normal” could be here to stay for quite a while.
Life without sports will certainly be an adjustment, as the natural escape they provided for many simply cannot be replaced. However, with a little creativity and effort, alternatives can be found. Nothing will come close to replicating the annual extravaganza that is March Madness. However, in the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, there can at least be a fun debate in determining the Greatest Grizzly in franchise history.
With that in mind, 3 and D podcast hosts Justin Lewis and Shawn Coleman, with creative support from the wonderful Grizzly Bear Blues staff, have launched the “Greatest Grizzly Tournament”- a thoroughly scientific attempt ( not really) at determining the Greatest Grizzlies player in franchise history. Though debates have happened for years in hopes of finding this answer, this is the latest installment in validating the right answer once and for all.
The concept is simple. In a single-elimination format, 32 present and past Grizzlies have been sorted into four regions. The names have been seeded one through eight, with each match-up being determined via Twitter voting from fans, media members, GBB staff, and anyone who wants a voice in the debate. The voting will start today with the first region, and each day after the field will get smaller and the stakes higher as names advance while others find their place in the annals of Grizzlies history.
The field and seeding were determined unofficially by several general factors: individual production with the Grizzlies franchise, longevity of playing for the Grizzlies, team success in time with franchise, relevance to fans, and involvement in most memorable moments. The goal is for the voting to consider these factors when it comes to each individual match-up. Due to the various ways in which fans may rank their favorite Grizzlies players, considering each of these aspects when voting will help decide which players advance.
The seeding of the players and match-ups that formed as a result is obviously subjective. However, while a few players may be too high or too low, the setup seems to allow several fun and enjoyable match-ups along the way. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four regions and the first round face-offs that will be voted on this week.
Each region will bear a nickname of the Core Four member who is the first seed in that region. The first region also includes the top overall seed in this bracket, Zach Randolph. Based off being a beast on the court and beloved off of it, ZBO was the most natural player to take the top spot. However, with some other fan favorites in the mix, could an upset be on the horizon? Here are the Z-Bo region participants:
- Zach Randolph
- Shareef Abdul-Rahim
- Rudy Gay
- Jaren Jackson Jr.
- JaMychal Green
- Kyle Lowry
- Beno Udrih
- Hamed Haddadi
This group has the potential to spark some fun debate and discussion as to who will emerge as the last man standing once the final four are determined. Voting for the Z-BO region will take place Monday March 16th.
BIG SPAIN REGION
The Big Spain Region has the potential to be the most interesting to watch throughout this process. Number one seed Marc Gasol is arguably the best Grizzlies player in terms of on court production, yet more certainty may support the statement that he is also the most polarizing player in franchise history. Beyond Gasol, several interesting names appear in this group, with some awesome possibilities for future showdowns. Here is the Big Spain Region:
- Marc Gasol
- Mike Miller
- Jason Williams
- Ja Morant
- James Posey
- Jonas Valanciunas
- Darrell Arthur
- Dillon Brooks
It is not far fetched to suggest Gasol appears to be the number one seed most likely to not make it to the final four. The results will be quite entertaining to see unfold once the voting begins on Tuesday.
The Conductor region stands out for two reasons: it is well represented from significant players in the Grizzlies past, while also offering some fun first round match-ups. Of course, there likely is little to debate as the tournament progresses in terms of Mike Conley. While early face-offs in this region will be fun to monitor, Conley may have the easiest setup of any top seed’s potential journey to the final four. Here is the complete seeding for the Conductor Region:
- Mike Conley
- Shane Battier
- Stromile Swift
- Mike Bibby
- Bryant Reeves
- Courtney Lee
- Tayshaun Prince
- Earl Watson
This is a region that includes some of the memorable names from the franchise’s first few seasons in Vancouver and following their move to Memphis. Though there may not be much doubt how this region will develop, there could be a surprise run or two among the names to choose from.
The connection between the Grizzlies and the city of Memphis has created one of the best fan cultures in any NBA city around the country. While many players have embraced the culture here and endured themselves to the fans, no one has been more central in establishing that connection than Tony Allen. From speaking the Grit and Grind Era into existence to taking his place as the Grindfather in the Grindhouse, Tony Allen has been one of the most beloved hometown figures in the NBA for over a decade. However, while Allen is a strong candidate in this type of setup, he will have some fun competition in this region. Here is the seeding for the Grindfather Region:
- Tony Allen
- Pau Gasol
- Lorenzen Wright
- O.J. Mayo
- Hakim Warrick
- Vince Carter
- Greg Anthony
- Brandon Clarke
This group represents the Grizzlies first decade in Memphis well, and the voting will be interesting to see over time. There are a few intriguing match-ups in the first few rounds of voting in this region.
The field has been unveiled and the stage has been set. It is now up Grizzlies fans to determine how this Memphis Madness will turn out. Beyond the criteria mentioned above when voting in each match-up, another focus should be the specific player’s time in Memphis. While Kyle Lowry and Vince Carter have had amazing careers, their best years occurred before or after they arrived in Memphis. Keeping that focus should help yield the most accurate results as tournament results develop.
For this week, the voting schedule is as follows:
Four First Round Match-ups from each Region per day
Monday- Z-BO Region
Tuesday- Big Spain Region
Wednesday- Conductor Region
Thursday- GrindFather Region
The specific match-ups are exactly as seeds face off during March Madness (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc.) Once the tallies are totaled, the field will be trimmed down to a “sweet 16”. Each player that advances will have a clean slate for their next face-off, and the second round will kick off next Monday. Each voting setup will last for 24 hours.
The overall goal of this concept is to spark fun discussion and debate. It will be quite interesting and exciting to see where several Grizzlies players land in the hierarchy of the numerous talents that have played for this franchise. While there may never be a consensus or definitive answer, the outcome of this tournament will give further clarity to determine the Greatest Grizzly of them all.