By Zsolti Horvath
EBC British Columbia Bureau
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Eagle News) – How far would you travel to watch an NBA game? We’re not talking a playoff game or the finals, just a regular season NBA game. Would you drive six hours? Or maybe even eight? For a majority of casual fans and even some super fans, that’s an absurd thought. However, that’s a reality fans in Vancouver face all season. The Grizzlies left Vancouver in 2001 and the Sonics left Seattle in 2008, leaving fans to travel to Portland for a glimpse of NBA action.
After the 1998 NBA lockout, the Grizzlies attendance diminished considerably. Having to pay players in American dollars but earning Canadian was a huge issue at the time as the Canadian dollar was extremely weak. The local ownership group was looking to cut their losses and attempted to sell the team as fast as they could. The NBA rejected a new ownership group looking to move the team to St. Louis as they wanted to make the NBA work in Canada. Eventually the team was sold to Michael Heisley, who promised to keep the team in British Columbia. However, one year later the team received league approval to move to Memphis.
Award winning filmmaker of “Finding Big Country” and Vancouver basketball advocate Kat Jayme told Eagle News about the community reaction of the Grizzlies leaving.
“[It] left a huge impact. So many fans were heartbroken, not just me. They were a huge part of Vancouver and it was devastating for the community when they left.”
Many rumors have circulated about the NBA returning to Vancouver with the most notable being Vancouver Canucks (NHL) owner Francesco Aquilini wanting to bring a team back to the Northwest. Aquilini put those rumors to rest as he told media, “the numbers are cost-prohibitive now. There was a time when maybe it was possible. But to spend $2 billion on an NBA team, it’s not something we’re going to do.”
Jayme, however, is confident that it will happen sooner rather than later.
“I know it won’t happen right away – I’m not that naïve, but I am confident that it will happen one day. And I will do everything I can to help that cause,” said Jayme.
Jayme, who is also a local high school basketball coach, has fought hard to put Vancouver back on the NBA’s radar. Before the October 17th preseason game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, she is organizing a “Vancouver wants the NBA back” rally. This will take place outside of Rogers Arena at 4:30 p.m. prior to tip-off, with hopes to show the NBA that the city still cares about basketball.
“(I’m) just trying to show the NBA and potential investors that there is a fan base for this,” Jayme said.
Jayme is asking fans to come in Grizzlies gear with signs and white rally towels to support the cause to #BringBackTheGrizz. She also emphasized that, although being a serious cause, the rally is “also just a fun way for other Grizzlies/NBA fans who want a team back in Vancouver to meet.”
(Eagle News Service)