The Memphis Grizzlies have yet to make an NBA Finals Appearance since their inaugural season in the 2001-2002 season. They came close in 2013, but ultimately got swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Still, the Grizzlies have an underrated championship pedigree as they have had many former players play in the NBA Finals.
In fact. there has been a former Memphis Grizzlies player in the NBA Finals every year since 2005, a streak that has continued this season with the Miami Heat making the 2020 NBA Finals. Former Grizzlies have had a wide ranging impact on their teams in the Finals. Some have played minimal amounts, while others have been a key piece in their team winning it all. As we approach the 2020 NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, here’s a quick recap of how past Grizzlies have fared in the NBA Finals.
Writer’s Note: The former Grizzly must have played a game in the NBA Finals, as well as actually played a game for the Memphis Grizzlies (Sorry Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard & Dion Waiters). Vancouver Grizzlies were not taken into consideration (Sorry Mike Bibby).
Tony Massenburg, who played with the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2001-2002 season, made quite the minor appearance in the Spurs championship run in 2005. Massenburg totalled just 9 minutes in the 7-game series, contributing nothing other than 3 rebounds and a personal foul.
2006: Miami Heat win 4-2 over the Dallas Mavericks
Both Jason Williams and James Posey left Memphis for Miami heading into the 05-06 season and were key role players as Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal led the Heat to the Championship. The two combined to average 16 points, nearly 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
2007: Spurs win 4-0 over the Cleveland Cavaliers
Drew Gooden was the second leading scoring for a Cavs team led by LeBron in his first Finals appearance. In the sweep, Gooden averaged 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
The Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol in the middle of the the 2007-2008 season and he, alongside Kobe Bryant, immediately led the Lakers to a Finals appearance. Gasol averaged nearly 15 points to go along with 10.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists as the Lakers fell short to the Boston Celtics. James Posey makes another appearance as his solid contributions (8.7 points per game) were enough to help assist the Celtics in winning the Finals.
2009: Lakers win 4-1 over the Orlando Magic
The Lakers would come back victorious in the second of three straight Finals appearances. Pau Gasol was once again a great second fiddle to Kobe Bryant with his 18 points and 9 rebounds per game.
2010: Lakers win 4-3 over the Celtics
Pau Gasol and the Lakers got revenge from the 2008 series, defeating the Celtics in 2010. Gasol averaged a double-double for the Lakers scoring 18.6 points and 11.6 rebounds as Kobe’s sidekick.
2011: Dallas Mavericks win 4-2 over the Heat
Former Grizzly Mike Miller took his 3-point prowess to South Beach where he and the Heat Big 3 of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade fell short in an upset to the Dallas Mavericks. Miller shot 7-18 from beyond the arc in the series but it wasn’t enough to overcome Dirk Nowitzki. Former Grizzly Brian Cardinal played in 5 games for the Mavs, but didn’t contribute much of anything in the series.
2012: Heat win 4-1 over the Oklahoma City Thunder
Mike Miller, joined by former Grizzly Shane Battier, helped LeBron James get his first ring in Miami as they defeated the Thunder. Miller and Battier combined to average nearly 18 points per game and shot 9-16 from beyond the arc in the series.
2013: Heat win 4-3 over the Spurs
Miller and Battier won back-to-back Championships with the Heat, this time defeating the Spurs. The duo weren’t quite as prominent in this series combining to average just 11 points per game but were once again a threat from beyond the arc shooting 23-45 from deep.
2014: Spurs win 4-1 over the Heat
The Heat’s 3-peat failed as the Spurs got revenge from the 2013 series handling the Heat. The Grizzlies were only represented by Shane Battier, who was on the last leg of his career. Battier appeared in 4 games but played just 33 minutes overall without scoring a single point.
After spending the 2013-2014 season back in Memphis, Mike Miller teamed back up with LeBron when LeBron returned him to Cleveland. The Cavs were doomed after Kyrie Irving fractured his kneecap in Game 1. Miller appeared in 5 games for the Cavs but played just 28 minutes, shooting 1-2 from beyond the arc in the series. Former Grizzly Marreese Speights playing sparingly for the Warriors in their first Championship of the Steph Curry era.
2016: Cavaliers win 4-3 over the Warriors
The Cavs, led by LeBron (he’s in the Finals a lot), had the famous comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in 2016 and former Grizzly (Dahntay Jones) had a nice view on the bench to watch it all. Jones played just 18 minutes in 6 games but was a solid veteran leader in the Cavs locker room. Speights appeared in all 7 games for the Warriors, but shot an ugly 4-18 from the field in his 33 minutes.
2017: Warriors win 4-1 over the Cavs
The Warriors came out on top in the 3rd installment of the Warriors/Cavs Finals series. Dahntay Jones once again played very little for the Cavs, while former Grizzly Matt Barnes barely sniffed the court for the Warriors.
2018: Warriors win 4-0 over the Cavs
The LeBron James era in Cleveland came to an end as the Warriors swept the Cavs in the 4th and final battle in the Finals between these two organizations. The series is most known for J.R. Smith’s mishap at the end of Game 1, but former Grizzly Jeff Green appeared in all 4 games for the Cavs averaging a little over 5 points per game.
2019: Toronto Raptors win 4-2 over the Warriors
The Raptors won their first NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors as the Warriors dealt with injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Grizzlies legend Marc Gasol played a key role in the Raptors Championship after being traded to Toronto earlier that season. Gasol averaged 12 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while anchoring an elite Raptors defense.
2020: Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Grizzlies will once again be represented in the Finals this season with both Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder suiting up for the Miami Heat after being traded to Miami earlier this season. Hill doesn’t figure to play a ton, but Jae Crowder has been a key contributor for the Miami Heat this postseason. Crowder has shot nearly 37% from beyond the arc for the Heat this postseason, averaging over 12 points per game while playing solid defense.
I’m not sure if any other team has a streak like the Grizzlies with a former player participating in the Finals for 15 consecutive seasons but regardless it’s pretty cool to see former guys having minimal to great success in the Finals, even if it’s with other teams.