The Bear and The Bay


Josiah Mayberry, Staff Writer

The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors have been slowly stoking flames of mutual dissent for a few years now, but as of the 2022-23 NBA season, it seems a new marquee rivalry has risen.

The Warriors have won four championships since 2015, while the Grizzlies have never taken home a single one. What would’ve seemed like a one-sided competition several years ago has transformed into a more even matchup due to Memphis’ moves as of the last few seasons.

The reason for the Grizzlies’ improvement is multi faceted. The team is very young, with Steven Adams, 29,  being their youngest player. They have embraced the attitude of their home city which gives them more support from fans. The additions of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. through the draft, along with signing Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks, have paid dividends for the franchise, and they sport one of the best backup guards, Tyus Jones.

The Warriors, despite being the defending champions, have been widely seen as slightly declining these last few seasons, taking a step back from their near unrivaled dominance from the mid to late 2010’s. The two teams have very different pasts, but Memphis’ improvements have brought increased attention to the Home of the Blues. 

The back and forth started in the offseason before the 2019-2020 season, the Warriors cornerstone forward Andre Igoudala was traded to the Grizzlies in a move to free up cap space for Golden State. Igoudala would spend over 200 days on the team but would not play in a single game because he was not satisfied being on what he considered a non-contender for a championship, stating he required a trade to one of his specified destinations. 

This would make the Grizzlies’ young, fiery roster very angry. They felt disrespected and were considering that they would find themselves in the playoffs both seasons after and are a shoe in this year as well. 

Igoudala and several Grizzlies players have gone after each other in the media incessantly. The Grizzlies have been more outspoken as of late, still making it known there is no love lost between the parties.

The next major event between the teams would take place at the end of the 2020-21 offseason. They met in the regular season finale in a showdown for the eighth seed. Golden State would walk away with a win, but due to the advent of the play-in tournament, they would meet again shortly after. The Grizzlies ended their season in a 117-112 contest, stopping a three season playoff drought for Memphis. 

The next season the rivalry would develop more, Igoudala rejoined the warriors, fanning the flames of competition and boiling the bad blood between the franchises. The teams would play four times throughout the 2021-22 season and the Grizzlies came out on top three of these.

After they clashed in March, Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson would mock the Warriors, tweeting their catchphrase “strength in numbers,” after the contest went Memphis’ way. This would rub many the wrong way due to most of the Warrior’s stars missing that game. 

That postseason saw the two teams meeting once more, this time things would heat up even more following a questionable play by the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks in the second game of the series. Brooks collided with Golden State guard Gary Payton II, breaking Payton’s elbow. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr took the play to be dirty, along with quite a few others across the league and media.

Going into game five up 3-1, Stephen Curry said their plan was to “Whoop That Trick.” Similar to Jackon’s disrespecting the Warriors by tweeting their motto, Curry did the same thing, as “Whoop That Trick” is a song made by a Memphis rapper, serving as the Grizzlies’ anthem.

This gave the Grizz enough motivation to put up 134 points to the Warriors 95, but their momentum was short-lived as the Warriors closed the series out in game six. Logic would say that this would be the end of the drama between the two for that season; sadly, logic was wrong.

Golden State went on to win the championship last season, but even after all the effort and dedication the season took, they still would mention the Grizzlies. Klay Thompson called attention back to Jackson’s tweet, calling him a bum and a clown. A few Twitter jabs would follow, leading us up to the current season.

The two teams were scheduled to play on Christmas day of 2022. Leading up to this game, Morant told the media that he was “fine in the West” and that the Celtics were the only real competition for the Grizzlies.

The game went Golden State’s way by a score of 123-109. Though there wasn’t the closest contest between them, there were seven technical fouls called, showing that things between thee teams can easily get pretty chippy.

Things would end up cooling down for a little until March of this year. Dillon Brooks sat down with ESPN, sharing his disdain for Draymond Green and the Warriors.

“I don’t like Draymond at all,” Brooks said. “I just don’t like Golden State. I don’t like anything to do with them. Draymond talks a lot. Gets away with a lot, too. His game is cool — with Golden State — but if you put him anywhere else, you’re not going to know who Draymond is. He plays with heart, plays hard, knows the ins and outs of their defense. I guess that’s why they like him over there.”

These shots would not fall on deaf ears, prompting Green to respond in a segment of his podcast. “You were a little kid in high school watching us win championships, you should be happy that you witnessed that,” said Green. “Maybe college, you get the point, you’re a fan.”

Draymond’s response came March 8. The next day the Grizzlies would win their first game against the Warriors this season, an impressive 131-110 rout. Memphis would follow this up with another resounding win nine days later, 133-119. None of Golden State’s starters scored above 20 points in the latter. 

The game had some theatrics. The Warrior’s Thompson counted to four on his fingers during the matchup, flexing the championships they have won in their near decade of dominance.

That was the last regular season game scheduled between them, but as the playoffs grow near fans could be in for another electrifying series between the two franchises.

Green has been vocal about there not being a rivalry between the teams, pointing out the discrepancy in championships. The Grizzlies ended the Warriors season in 2021. The reverse happened in 2022, and now the two teams have a track record of rough play, off-court comments and a clear disliking of each other.

While the Grizzlies haven’t the trophy case historically great franchises possess behind their forward confidence to back it up, that isn’t the only criteria for a rivalry. As this season is nearing its conclusion, it will be interesting to observe the trajectory the conflict between both franchises takes.