The Grit & Grind Grizzlies built one of the NBA’s strongest identities. They were big. They were physical. They were tough.
They fit Memphis perfectly.
Those Grizzlies – led by Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen – endeared themselves in countless ways, big and small. They reached seven straight postseasons, upsetting the top-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round and peaking with a trip to the 2013 Western Conference finals. They also spoke frequently about their affection for the Memphis community. The connection built over uncommon longevity.
Until the Grizzlies let Randolph and Allen leave in 2017 free agency, the Gasol-Conley-Randolph-Allen quartet had the longest active run together in the NBA. Now, Gasol and Conley have the longest active run together as a pair.
But Memphis is shopping those two stars, and it’s leading to some heartache.
Gasol didn’t like the Grizzlies letting Randolph and Allen go. Gasol doesn’t like Memphis shopping Conley, who has spent all 11 of his prior NBA seasons with the Grizzlies. And Gasol himself could get traded after spending all 10 of his prior seasons in Memphis.
That’s how the NBA works, though. It’s extremely difficult for players to earn loyalty from a team.
Even players who spent their first 10 seasons with a franchise don’t usually spend the rest of their careers with that team. Most of the players who remained with the same team after that 10-year mark already won a championship with that team. Most of the players who switched teams later in their careers didn’t win a title with their original team.
Here’s every player who spent his first 10 seasons with the same team, sorted by whether they won a title in that span and whether they changed teams later in their career:
No title, changed teams
- DeAndre Jordan (LAC, 2009-2018)
- Jameer Nelson (ORL, 2005-2014)
- Anderson Varejao (CLE, 2005-2014)
- Andrei Kirilenko (UTA, 2002-2011)
- Michael Redd (MIL, 2001-2010)
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas (CLE, 1998-2008)
- Adonal Foyle (GSW, 1998-2007)
- Allen Iverson (PHI, 1997-2006)
- Kevin Garnett (MIN, 1996-2005)
- Danny Ferry (CLE, 1991-2000)
- Gary Payton (SEA, 1991-2000)
- Nick Anderson (ORL, 1990-1999)
- Patrick Ewing (NYK, 1986-1995)
- Jon Koncak (ATL, 1986-1995)
- Karl Malone (UTA, 1986-1995)
- Chris Mullin (GSW, 1986-1995)
- Terry Porter (POR, 1986-1995)
- Vern Fleming (IND, 1985-1994)
- Jerome Kersey (POR, 1985-1994)
- Clyde Drexler (POR, 1984-1993)
- Derek Harper (DAL, 1984-1993)
- Dominique Wilkins (ATL, 1983-1992)
- Rolando Blackman (DAL, 1982-1991)
- Sidney Moncrief (MIL, 1980-1989)
- Robert Reid (HOU, 1978-1988)
- Walter Davis (PHO, 1978-1987)
- Tree Rollins (ATL, 1978-1987)
- Alvan Adams (PHO, 1976-1985)
- Oscar Robertson (CIN, 1961-1970)
- Carl Braun (NYK, 1948-1959)
No title, stayed on team
- Jeff Foster (IND, 2000-2009)
- Rik Smits (IND, 1989-1998)
- Reggie Miller (IND, 1988-1997)
- Nate McMillan (SEA, 1987-1996)
- John Stockton (UTA, 1985-1994)
- Mark Eaton (UTA, 1983-1992)
- Darrell Griffith (UTA, 1981-1991)
- Allen Leavell (HOU, 1980-1989)
- Tom Boerwinkle (CHI, 1969-1978)
- Jerry West (LAL, 1961-1970)
Title, stayed on team
- Manu Ginobili (SAS, 2003-2012)
- Tim Duncan (SAS, 1998-2007)
- Kobe Bryant (LAL, 1997-2006)
- David Robinson (SAS, 1990-1999)
- Joe Dumars (DET, 1986-1995)
- James Worthy (LAL, 1983-1992)
- Isiah Thomas (DET, 1982-1991)
- Kevin McHale (BOS, 1981-1990)
- Larry Bird (BOS, 1980-1989)
- Magic Johnson (LAL, 1980-1989)
- Michael Cooper (LAL, 1979-1988)
- Fred Brown (SEA, 1972-1981)
- Bill Bradley (NYK, 1968-1977)
- Willis Reed (NYK, 1965-1974)
- John Havlicek (BOS, 1963-1972)
- Tom Sanders (BOS, 1961-1970)
- Sam Jones (BOS, 1958-1967)
- Cliff Hagan (STL, 1957-1966)
- Bill Russell (BOS, 1957-1966)
- Paul Arizin (PHW, 1951-1962)
- Vern Mikkelsen (MNL, 1950-1959)
- Dolph Schayes (SYR, 1950-1959)
Title, changed teams
- Dwyane Wade (MIA, 2004-2013)
- Tayshaun Prince (DET, 2003-2012)
- Tony Parker (SAS, 2002-2011)
- Paul Pierce (BOS, 1999-2008)
- Scottie Pippen (CHI, 1988-1997)
- Michael Jordan (CHI, 1985-1995)
- Hakeem Olajuwon (HOU, 1985-1994)
- Byron Scott (LAL, 1984-1993)
- Maurice Cheeks (PHI, 1979-1988)
- Dave Cowens (BOS, 1971-1980)
- Phil Jackson (NYK, 1968-1978)
- Walt Frazier (NYK, 1968-1977)
- Bob Cousy (BOS, 1951-1960)
There are also a few current players who spent their first 10 seasons with the same team: Russell Westbrook (OKC, 2009-2018), Udonis Haslem (MIA, 2004-2013) and Dirk Nowitzki (DAL, 1999-2008). Their fates are uncertain, though it seems highly likely Haslem and Nowitzki – who won titles, though Nowitzki didn’t do it until his 13th season – will retire with their original franchises.
And of course, there’s also Gasol (MEM, 2009-2018) and Conley (MEM, 2008-2017).
The Grizzlies never made even the NBA Finals, let alone won a title. Teams like that usually aren’t motivated by nostalgia.
Memphis (19-29) is 14th in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies can rebuild around rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. Gasol and Conley could fetch assets – younger players and draft picks – that enhance the next era.
Everything about this situation screams for Memphis to at least explore trading Conley and Gasol. That the Grizzlies resisted so long was the bigger story.
But Memphis is showing itself to be a typical NBA team – one willing to move on from beloved players once necessary. Sure, that’s a little sad. It’s also common reality.