On August 27, 1999, the Vancouver Grizzlies was forced into trading their second pick Steve Francis, from the 1999 NBA Draft, to the Houston Rockets in a three-team deal and eventually succumb to the idea, NBA basketball wasn’t going to survive in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Grizzlies finished the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season with a league worst 8-42 record. They needed help and went looking for it at the 1999 NBA Draft. They found Maryland guard Steve Francis except he didn’t want to play in Vancouver.
On June 30, 1999, general manager Stu Jackson may have made the worst decision in NBA Draft history by selecting Francis second overall. Francis was the one player who adamantly opposed to play in our city and let management know about it, yet they still picked him.
Watch the moment Vancouver Grizzlies selected Steve Francis
After countless discussions, management convinced Steve to visit Vancouver and check out the city to see how great it is here. Upon his arrival, his entourage was offended when asked at YVR airport if they were a rap group. The Grizzlies spent the next few weeks trying to get Francis to relax and play for the team, but he wouldn’t have it.
Vancouver had no other choice than to trade Steve Francis to Houston. The Rockets received Francis and Tony Massenburg from Vancouver and Don MacLean and a future first-round pick from Orlando. The Grizzlies landed Michael Dickerson, Antoine Carr, Brent Price and Othella Harrington and a future first-round pick from the Rockets. Orlando got back Lee Mayberry, Rodrick Rhodes, Makhtar Ndiaye and Michael Smith from Vancouver.
The Grizzlies went onto play two more losing seasons before being sold and moved to Memphis in 2001. A weak dollar, mediocre attendance driven by discounted seats were the main reasons for the move. In only 6 years, the Vancouver Grizzlies had come undone. Some called the sale a fleecing, others would say it was a ritual sacrifice, cleansing the NBA of its weak and wounded.
It’s hard to say with certainty that August 27th was the exact day the Grizzlies legacy ended in Vancouver. What is certain since they left, not enough fans have missed the Grizzlies to resurrect a new NBA franchise in Vancouver.
Watch Beyond the Glory: Steve Francis