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Michael Heisley has a contract to sell the Memphis Grizzlies to Robert Pera, a hotshot young internet tycoon. It has been reported that the local ownership is not going to stand in the way of the sale.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. The local ownership walked away from the team years ago when they traded their equity stake in the team to cover operating losses on the franchise.

The good news is Memphis Grizzlies fans don’t need local ownership. It has always been just a way to feel better about the team’s prospects of remaining in Memphis but has NEVER been a necessary condition. NBA teams are owned right now by people not calling that city their home town. One NBA team is owned by someone who doesn’t call the USA his home country!

But it does help a city with a confidence issue feel better knowing that the team is owned by someone who calls Memphis home. No one talks about Oklahoma City being moved because local resident Clay Bennett owns the Thunder and he isn’t going to move the team. No one talks anymore about the New Orleans Hornets moving because they have Tom Benson owning the team.

Memphis has a newly minted Silicon Valley near billionaire purchasing the team. He lives in San Jose, California. That’s the same city that Larry Ellison lives in. You may remember that earlier this year Larry Ellison was interested in buying the Grizzlies to move them to California.

It highly unlikely that Pera is using only his own money to purchase the team. He’s not a billionaire anymore thanks to recent stock movements of his company. Common sense suggests he has called on a few of his Silicon Valley buddies to chip in some bucks too.

It’s not exactly reassuring to know that is it.

But here are the facts. Memphis has a close to iron clad contract with the Grizzlies to keep the team here until 2021. That’s nine years from now. In 9 years a lot can happen.

One thing that needs to happen is Memphis to show it deserves to be called a major league city. Memphis fans have shown they are willing to come to the playoffs and be among the most raucous fans in the NBA. Now they need to show they can do that over a full NBA season. No more excuses. Either the city comes to the games or they don’t. If they don’t come out to watch the team play then the city has no one to blame but themselves for the owner making a decision to move the franchise.

If Memphis supports the Grizzlies in the regular season in the same manner they have supported the team in the playoffs then the team will remain in Memphis. The league doesn’t want the black eye moving a franchise that built them a stadium like FedEx Forum would give them. The league also doesn’t want a team to move within 50 miles of another franchise (the Golden State Warriors) who are moving to San Francisco in the near future.

So the owner doesn’t have the collateral by himself. The city has a lock on the franchise for the next 9 years and the rumored desired ultimate location has issues.

All Memphis needs to do is show they are willing and able to support the Grizzlies in a manner that makes financial sense for the team. The Grizzlies were a playoff team last year and had the highest winning percentage in franchise history this season but were 20th in the league in attendance. Right ahead of the Grizzlies were Cleveland and Washington, two teams that had far less to be excited about than Memphis fans.

It is not Pera’s responsibility to show the city he isn’t going to move the team. He doesn’t have to sign an extension on the lease at FedEx Forum. He has shown his commitment to the franchise by willingly putting together between $350-$380 million to buy the team. He has shown his desire to be a part of this community in a big way for the next 9 years.

It is now Memphis’ responsibility to show Pera he’d be foolish to move the team after 9 years. It is Memphis’ responsibility to show the NBA that abandoning this city after they did everything asked. They need to show with their passion and attendance that the league would find it more difficult to get other cities to acquiesce to their demands in the future if they abandoned Memphis after they showed such support. It is Memphis responsibility to stand up and say “we may be smaller than some but we are more passionate and more committed too.”

It is time for Memphis to stand up and show they belong at the big people’s table.


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14 Responses to Time for Memphis to Show it Belongs

  1. Memphis81No Gravatar says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I was already planning on attending more games next season. This changes nothing in my opinion. I know too many people who always say they want to go to games and then when the team leaves (Titans), they complain about it. It’ll take more than just well wishing to keep a franchise here. Give them a reason to stay!

  2. PhilippeNo Gravatar says:

    I read somewhere that a buyout exists for the lease in the neighborhood of $100-105million. If the new ownership group estimates the value of the franchise that is relocated to San Jose to be 100+ million more than what was paid Heisley, what is preventing the move? The greater San Jose area is awash in people with money and the demographics (tilt liberal) that would support a team with sellouts on a consistent basis. A team in SF wouldn’t really take anything away from the South Bay team, too long a commute and enough available fans for two NBA teams.
    Any thoughts?

    • btrautscNo Gravatar says:

      Phillipe is precisely correct. If the buyout is only $100 Mil then consider Grizz moved by next season. I hate that, but that is the most likely outcome.

      People don’t buy teams to leave them in other cities 2,500 miles away (unless that team makes a lot of money).

      That is the sad reality of our franchise and the city.

  3. WorldFamousNo Gravatar says:

    Great article Chip! Thanks for the inspiration! You are exactly right, Memphians need to stand up and be proud of our team.

  4. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    Agree with this completely, I am a transplanted new Memphian from VA, been here a year now and I have fallen in love with this team. I got season tickets for next season, can only hope others join me! GO GRIZZ!

    • WorldFamousNo Gravatar says:

      Welcome to Memphis Joe!!! *Even though you have been here for a year. lol! I certainly hope this guy won’t move the team and that he becomes a great owner. I, like you, have fallen in love with the team too!

  5. Chris FaulknerNo Gravatar says:

    Well said, Chip. I made it to about 12 games last year, gonna aim for 20+ next season.

  6. AliNo Gravatar says:

    He will do good and why doesn’t NBA want a team within 50 miles of another. The Lakers and Clippers are in the same building.

  7. CCNo Gravatar says:

    Good article Chip…I think it looks good overall.
    I am a GRIZZ newbie,2nd year following the team.I live in Chattanooga(moved here 2 years ago), and fell in love w/ GRIZZ.I had been a Jazz fan for 223 years,when Sloan retired I was ‘done’.
    Anyway,Re: the San Jose rumors/BS… that’s only 50 miles from ‘bay area’/Warriors & only 120 miles from Sacramento Kings.
    This is a joke & NOT happening.

  8. vahythelordNo Gravatar says:

    hi im from iran,, i support the team for 5 years now.. i think he wouldnt move the city.. he loves this franchise to stay here.. and right now we are a playoff team so i think we can be a championship team if he pays more attention to the team than moving it.. how about salary cap? can he raise it or not?

  9. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    Really good article, Chip! Had some mixed feelings when I read Calkin’s article in the CA about extending the lease. Memphis needs to come to support the team in good times and bad to show we deserve the lease we have. Growing up in small Texas town before coming here, I’ve been thrilled to have a local pro team to support, I just wish more Memphians did more supporting and less belly-aching.

  10. Lee Eric SmithNo Gravatar says:

    Two thoughts:

    One, There is no coincidence that this recent run of success comes during the Grizzlies’ front office’s most stable and consistent period in the entire run in Memphis. If Pera, like Heisley, steps back and allows Chris Wallace to make the moves and Hollins to coach the team, then I think the Grizzlies can have a nice little 10+ year run of being a playoff team — much the same as it’s forgotten how BAD the Dallas Mavericks were in the 90s because of the Mavs success in the 2000s.

    Second, and it’s just a thought: If dude ever does look to move the team, I’d be MUCH more concerned about Seattle than San Jose. I can’t help but believe that if the city ever agrees to a new arena, the NBA will steer any franchise moves back to Seattle. And there will be SONICS again. Matter of fact, with the chaos in Sacramento, I wouldn’t be surprised if that franchise moves to Seattle.

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