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Last week, it was reported that for select games in this upcoming NBA season, the Memphis Grizzlies would wear the Vancouver Grizzlies’ throwback teal road uniforms from the late nineties (1995-99).
It’s important to note that the source of this report is from a Memphis Grizzlies fan podcast’s Twitter account (Fastbreak Breakfast). The podcast (with under 7,000 followers and without a verified badge) claims to have attained this information from a “team source.”
BREAKING: A team source confirms to @fastbreakbreak that the Memphis Grizzlies will wear Vancouver Grizzlies throwbacks for selected games in 2019-20. Official team jersey reveal in August????: (Vancouver photoshop) @theScore????: (Memphis photoshop of the photoshop) @Memphicity pic.twitter.com/f5oyZ9S9pM— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) July 19, 2019
BREAKING: A team source confirms to @fastbreakbreak that the Memphis Grizzlies will wear Vancouver Grizzlies throwbacks for selected games in 2019-20. Official team jersey reveal in August????: (Vancouver photoshop) @theScore????: (Memphis photoshop of the photoshop) @Memphicity pic.twitter.com/f5oyZ9S9pM
Being an innately skeptical person, this has all the marks of a small-time podcast trying to garner a larger following. But as soon as this report surfaced, herds of angry and bitter Vancouverites tweeted their displeasure with the idea. Of course, the majority of the mob are still holding a grudge against the NBA and former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley for relocating their beloved basketball team to Memphis in 2001. Meanwhile, various Memphis fans and players expressed their excitement for the potential jersey addition on social media—Ja Morant, the Grizzlies’ second overall pick of the 2019 draft, tweeted “it’s a must,” in reference to Memphis rocking the throwbacks for the upcoming season.
This leads us to a larger question: is it unethical for a sports franchise to wear a relocated team’s jersey? This past NHL season the Carolina Hurricanes wore the Hartford Whalers throwback green uniforms for two games against the Boston Bruins. This came around 21 years after the Whalers relocated out of Hartford due to low season ticket sales. Despite how much time has passed since the relocation, numerous Hartford Whalers fans cited “Whalers night” as a slap in the face.
Some Montreal Expos fans appeared to share that sentiment after the Washington Nationals announced that they would wear the Expos jerseys for a throwback night this July.
From a financial point of view, bringing back the jerseys makes perfect sense for all these franchises. It would be a great marketing ploy for a Memphis Grizzlies franchise that ranked 26th in the league in average attendance and outside the top ten in merchandise sales in 2018. Memphis is in the process of a full rebuild—last season they traded Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the two longest tenured players in franchise history. A potential throwback night every month could spice things up for a Memphis fan base that appears to be due for another losing season.
But I understand why Vancouver Grizzlies fans are angered by this idea. The Vancouver edition of the team wasn’t given much of a chance to succeed in the first place. Poor management and ownership led to Vancouver drafting Bryant Reeves and Shareef Abdur-Rahim over Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. They went 101-359 from 1995-2001, and eventually their attendance fell below 14,000. Now, 19 years later, all Vancouver Grizzlies fans have is the memory of their team beating the 72-10 Chicago Bulls in 1995, and their trendy away uniforms. The idea of another team and fan base wearing your favourite squad’s jersey is odd. It’s like the jersey has gone from a monogamous to polygamous relationship.
At the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves that the NBA is a business, where ethics takes a back seat to bringing in increasing revenues. But on bright side…at least we have the “uninspiring” new Canuck Jerseys.