Zach Randolph got drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2001, during their “Jail Blazers” era. An impressionable Randolph fit in far too well, facing numerous legal and team-disciplinary issues. Most infamously, he broke teammate Ruben Patterson’s eye socket with a sucker punch during practice then spent days hiding in fear of getting shot by Patterson.
A decade later, Randolph was a leader and beloved member of the Grit & Grind Grizzlies.
Randolph’s long and winding career now ends. After last playing in 2018, Randolph told TMZ he’s done trying to return, effectively announcing his retirement.
Randolph made two All-Star teams and an All-NBA third team in a different season with Memphis. The Grizzlies have already said they’ll retire his No. 50. He was integral to a team that upset top-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round and peaked with an appearance in the 2013 Western Conference finals.
A low-post player as the NBA began embracing stretch fours, Randolph stood out. He and Marc Gasol formed an old-school big-man tandem that was suddenly the strange matchup. That Randolph thrived with a thick frame and little jumping ability was a testament to his footwork and touch. Just thinking about his style evokes a smile, though not one that’d match his huge grin.
It’s incredible Randolph leaves the game with such a strong reputation.
Despite his problems in Portland, Randolph won Most Improved Player in 2004, got a big contract then spent years being defined by it. The Trail Blazers, trying to shed their ugly image and build around Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, traded Randolph to the Knicks. Randolph disappointed in New York and got salary-dumped to the Clippers. Trying to build around Blake Griffin, L.A. dealt Randolph to Memphis.
After his time with the Grizzlies, Randolph – who earned about $200 million in his career – chased one last payday with the Kings. He spent last inactive, his contract used to facilitate a trade with the Mavericks, who waived him.
Randolph’s talent was always going to get him multiple NBA opportunities. He burned through a few. But in Memphis, he finally made the most one.