The Memphis Grizzlies have had some important figures through their first 16 seasons. Several players helped them reach their first playoff appearance and certain members were responsible for bringing them to their first playoff series victory.
Jerry West, Zach Randolph, and Hubie Brown rank highly in Grizzlies' lore. Some coaches have been more vital to the Grizzlies' success than players. Check out who ranks among the 15 most important figures in Grizzlies franchise history.
Mike Bibby was a solid guard for the Grizzlies in his early years. Bibby was the leading assist man for the Grizzlies in the three years he spent with the team. Bibby's 8.4 assists per game in 2000-01 is the best average in franchise history.
Bibby was only heating up when he left the Grizzlies for the Sacramento Kings.
Michael Heisley, the Grizzlies owner, deserves some mention. Heisley has owned the team since 2000. He moved the team to Memphis after promising to keep them in Vancouver.
Heisley foots the bill for the team. He pays for everything, from rookies to star players like Zach Randolph. A stingy spender, Heisley isn’t afraid to let people know that it’s his money being spent.
Jason Williams was a significant player for the Grizzlies' first two playoff teams. Williams led the team in assists in each season. His 8.3 average in 2002-03 is the second highest assists per game average in team history.
Williams had terrific talent as a point guard. He was as raw a talent as the Grizzlies have ever seen.
The Grizzlies would have been nothing in their early days if not for Shareef Abdur Rahim. He was the best Grizzlies player in their early years. He was the first Grizzlies player to average 20 points per game. In 1999, Abdur-Rahim averaged 23 points per game.
Abdur-Rahim was the first star player of the Grizzlies. That Abdur-Rahim had to leave the Grizzlies before they made the playoffs for the first time is unfortunate.
While Jerry West made some of the key moves to build the Grizzlies into the team they are now, Chris Wallace has acquired some of the important pieces. Wallace made the cunning trade for Zach Randolph despite his foul behavior and acquired O.J. Mayo in a draft trade.
Both the Randolph trade and the Mayo pick are signature Wallace moves. Wallace is known to take risks. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.
Mike Fratello followed up on Hubie Brown’s work on the sidelines for Memphis. Fratello took the helm shortly after Brown resigned in 2004.
Fratello took the Grizzlies to their second playoff appearance that year despite having to adjust make adjustments on the fly. Fratello led the Grizzlies to another playoff appearance in 2005-06. That season, the Grizzlies won 49 games, their best total to that point.
Miller isn’t one of the most talented players, but he was an important part of the first Grizzlies team to make the playoffs. Miller—ever the gym rat—worked hard for the 2003-04 season.
His hard work paid off. His 11.1 points per game belied the impact he had on the team that season. Miller was a valuable facilitator. He averaged 3.6 assists per game. In 2004-05, he shot a solid 50.5 percent from the floor.
In just three years, Marc Gasol has become the best center in Grizzlies history. Gasol is a strong rebounder and his career average is 7.8 rebounds per game.
Gasol is also a terrific shooter. Gasol set a Grizzlies record in 2009-10 with a 58.1 percent field goal percentage. On his career, Gasol is a 54.5 percent shooter.
Lionel Hollins coached the Grizzlies to their first playoff series victory. Upending the San Antonio Spurs in the first round was a special accomplishment and pushing the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games was big as well.
Hollins served as an assistant coach and interim head coach for the Grizzlies before being named head coach.
One could say that Rudy Gay is the best pure shooter that the Grizzlies have ever had. Gay is that highly desirable wingman who can shoot better than 50 percent. Gay averages about 20 points per game.
Gay was in the midst of a strong season when he suffered an elbow injury. That the Grizzlies rallied to make the playoffs without him is a credit to both the desire of the team and the importance of Gay.
Shane Battier symbolizes the Grizzlies team ethic. Battier was never a high scorer. He has only averaged 10 points per game twice in his five-plus years with the Grizzlies.
Battier’s a great defender. He averages about a block and a steal per game. Battier is a great on-ball defender, as well as a stellar help defender.
Battier—like an offensive lineman—makes a big impact outside the stat line.
Battier’s absence was felt when he left the team for the Houston Rockets in 2006-07. The Grizzlies went from being the top defensive team (88.5 points allowed per game) in 2005-06 to the second worst (106.7) in 2006-07.
Pau Gasol was the first very good frontcourt player for the Grizzlies. Gasol grew steadily in his years with the Grizzlies.
Gasol led the Grizzlies to their first playoff berth. He averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game that year. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, nor did those of any other Grizzlies player. Nonetheless, he was the leader of a scrappy playoff team.
By far, Randolph is the best player in Grizzlies history. Randolph has set the single-season Grizzlies rebounding record the last two years. He’s the only Grizzlies player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in multiple seasons.
Randolph is the only Grizzlies player who can be considered one of the 15 best players in the NBA. Pau Gasol couldn’t have been considered part of that class until his Lakers days and Abdur-Rahim was never that good.
Randolph was the leader of the team at a critical juncture in its history. Randolph led the Grizzlies to their first playoff series victory. In the future, he could reach even higher than last season and bring the team deeper in the playoffs.
Brown is known for turning teams around. Turning the Grizzlies into a competitive team was perhaps his greatest achievement.
Brown led the Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance in 2003-04. The underdog story ended abruptly for Brown, as he would resign 12 games into the 2004-05 season.
Brown coached up a scrappy Grizzlies team. The team lacked a player who averaged 20 points per game. The team was built around Pau Gasol, but its identity lied with high energy players such as Williams and Battier.
West built the Grizzlies into a winning team. West hired Hubie Brown as coach and after Brown left, West found Fratello.
West was willing to take a chance with the Grizzlies. When he took the Grizzlies general manager job, West said, "After being a part of the Lakers success for so many years, I always wondered how it would be like to build a winning franchise that has experienced much success. I want to help make a difference."
West earned the 2004 Executive of the Year Award.
The Grizzlies owe much gratitude to West for building the franchise.