It’s not right.
Mike Heisley brought the Grizzlies to Memphis of all places in 2001. No one thought that was a smart move to make.
Memphis would be the smallest market in the NBA. The city was blue-collar so paying for tickets to 41 regular season home games would be taxing to the population. There was even a rather active and vocal campaign to prevent the team from relocating here from some of the cities leaders. Still Heisley pushed ahead.
On November 1, 2001, the Grizzlies played their first game at the Pyramid.
The team lost to the Detroit Pistons but Memphis was officially a major league city now.
In 2002 Heisley hired Jerry West, a legend in the NBA, to bring credibility to the franchise. This franchise was a joke and now they have hired the Logo of the league to run the front office. West was long removed from day to day operations of the Lakers which had been the only team he had ever worked for. What could he do to turn the franchise around? Still Heisley pushed ahead with his vision.
In 2004 West was named Executive of the Year while bringing the Grizzlies to their first ever playoff.
That same year Heisley hired Hubie Brown out of the broadcast booth to run the team after a rough start to the 2002-3 season. Hubie was supposed to be over the hill at 69 years old. He wouldn’t be able to relate to today’s players.
18 months later Hubie Brown was Coach of the Year as the Grizzlies won 50 games.
In 2008, Heisley decided that team had gone as far as it could go. In moves that shocked the league, Heisley agreed to trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for expiring contracts and late 1st round picks. He was called cheap. He was said to be destroying the integrity of the game. Gregg Popovich even went so far as to claim there should be a league oversight committee to approve trades that were not in the best interest of the league. Heisley pushed ahead with his vision anyway.
Three years later the Grizzlies were back in the playoffs and upset the #1 seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
What’s more Heisley laid out his plan for after the 3 year plan at the beginning? He said once the team made the playoffs, he would make whatever moves were needed at that time to make the team not just a qualifier for the playoffs but a challenger for the title.
Five years after the plan was announced the Grizzlies are playing for the Western Conference title.
Memphis is going to host a Conference Finals game this year and is many media pundits pick to represent the Western Conference in the Finals.
Only Mike Heisley won’t be here to enjoy it, and that’s not right.
He’s still recovering from a stroke he suffered back in February. He was in a coma for quite a while. He is no longer in a coma but he is still in the hospital.
3 Shades of Blue has learned that Mr. Heisley is making progress and he is doing well but the road to recovery is going to be long. He is said to be thrilled about the team’s success.
Memphis is reveling in the success of the Grizzlies right now and rightfully so. It is sad that Mr. Heisley can’t join us to share in the fun but he wants everyone to know he is here in spirit if not in person.
For those interested in sending a note or to make a donation to the charity he supported so well in Memphis
St. Jude’s Hospital
ATTN: Gloria Ballard
Assistant to Rick Shadyac
501 Saint Jude Place
Memphis, TN 38105
Notes of well wishes should be sent to:
Assistant to Michael E. Heisley
The HEICO Companies, LLC
70 West Madison Street, Suite 5600
Chicago, IL 60602
For all that Mr. Heisley has given the city of Memphis, We here at 3 Shades of Blue hope people will take the time to write him a note and/or make a donation to St. Jude’s in his honor. Mr. Heisley saw a way to bring something special to a city that wasn’t his hometown. Now would be a good time to tell him how much we appreciate it.