On the surface, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies do not seem to have much of a connection; a casual basketball fan would remark that there is no storied rivalry, no bad blood, and that the Grizzlies haven’t even been in Memphis for very long (coming via Vancouver).
However, there are two storylines integral to Laker lore that entwines both of the organizations in vital ways. Pau Gasol played with Memphis for the first 7 years of his career before being traded to the Lakers in 2008. The Lakers received an All Star and the missing link to their championship hopes along with a 2010 first round draft pick. The Grizzlies on the other hand received the draft rights to his brother Marc, a few draft picks and three Lakers: Aaron McKie, Javaris Crittendon and Kwame Brown (good riddance). Many considered it highway robbery at the time and still do, but I’m not going to argue- the arrival of Pau brought with it three straight trips to the Finals and two championships, not to mention a number two option that Kobe trusts and respects.
The saga continues with Lakers hero Jerry West, also known as The Logo and Mr. Clutch. He is one of the greatest Lakers of all time, not only for his amazing contributions as a player but for his work in the front office as well. This is the man who orchestrated two separate eras of greatness, after concluding his own: Showtime in the 1980’s and Shaq/Kobe in the 2000’s. He is the one who traded a known quantity in Vlade Divac for Charlotte’s 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, seeing greatness and passion lurking underneath the skinny high school exterior of Kobe Bean Bryant.
He is also the one who will be honored with his own statue outside Staples Center next February to join the likes of Magic Johnson and the legendary Chick Hearn. While all of Lakerland was sad to see Mr. West leave for Memphis, he left an amazing legacy in Los Angeles and a great foundation for the team and front office. Mitch Kupchak has excelled for the past ten years due to the tutelage he received as an assistant general manager under Jerry West.