In the early 1990s, the NBA came up with a fantastic idea of discovering Canada. That is, not like completely open (in the end, Toronto Huskies was not only one of the first league clubs, but even played in its first match), but at least remind that there is such a great country. There, in the north, the weather is always frost. The NBA already knew about Toronto, but it seemed disreputable to present only one team. So, the search for another Canadian city was immediately announced.
So Vancouver was open to the exciting American fans. As a result, the Vancouver Grizzlies team arrived in the NBA in 1995. At first, owners wanted to name it Mounties in honor of the famous Canadian Mounted Police Department. As it was expected, local fans and the police didn’t get the joke. So, the search for the club’s name continued. According to the results of the popular vote, quite a severe Vancouver Grizzlies and mysterious Vancouver Ravens became the favorites, and the victory was achieved by the strongest one. But the reserved name created in honor of the North American bear was no less successful. In western Canada, there are a lot of grizzlies, who are considered to be a totem symbol of local Indians. This fact is reflected in one of the club’s less important emblems. Speaking about the logos, nobody knows for sure why the managers decided to choose these. Perhaps it reflects the blue sky of Canada, as it could be depicted by an avant-garde artist working in the genre of nuclear apocalyptics. The Grizzlies called this shade of turquoise Naismith Blue, hinting that the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith is related to their emblem.
The blue mutation did not survive the 1990s. In the 99th, the Grizzlies got an alternative black shape, which became the main one the following year.
Associations with the mighty northern giant turned out to be only an illusion: for six years of being in Vancouver, the team took the last place in the standings five times, winning a total of only 22% of victories. Having successively replaced the two owners for four years, the franchise was almost in the hands of Bill Lowry, who decided to move the team to St. Louis. NBA commissioner David Stern put a veto on the deal. So, the team was sold to Michael Heasley, a Chicago businessman who promised to keep the franchise in Canada.
However, the financial illiteracy of the former owners, as well as a weak marketing campaign and failures in the draft, led to the club losing up to $ 40 million a year. In the lock-out season of 1998/99, all League clubs recorded a decline in spectator activity, but the fall in interest in the Grizzlies was catastrophic.
In March 2001, the team was officially relocated to Memphis, the city of Elvis Presley. This city wasn’t spoiled by the attention of the most significant sports leagues in the USA. However, the Memphis team was not the first basketball club in Tennessee. The point is that in 1970, the ABA team Flibustier, that moved from New Orleans, was trying to sort out some ruthless names during the next five years. They came up with different names like Memphis Pros, Tams, Sounds, etc. However, the success of their predecessors could not be compared with the future heroes of Grizzlies.
Here again, there was a problem with the name. The fact is that there is the headquarters of Federal Express in Memphis, which became the sponsor of the club. They hoped that the team’s new name would be Memphis Express. But the NBA made changes, deciding that there should be no advertising in the club’s name (as well as on its form).
As a result, the club remained Grizzlies, although this species of bear don’t populate the state of Tennessee. At first, the team continued to play in the Vancouver colors, but for the fourth season in Memphis, it acquired new ones. Designers strived to change the blue color. They added three (three!) different shades of blue on the Memphis Grizzlies form. They are called Memphis Midnight (dark navy blue), Beale Street Blue (blue, but named after the famous street of Memphis, which played a large role in the history of blues music) and Smoky blue (pale blue).
Meaning and History
All four Memphis Grizzlies logos feature a bear. It is the team’s mascot, nicknamed the Grizz, which was introduced in 1995 when the western Canadian city of Vancouver owned the NBA franchise. The modern logo also reflects the club’s color scheme, which includes gold, gray, and two shades of blue: Beale Street Blue and Memphis Midnight Blue.
1996 – 2001
For the first five seasons, the team was called the Vancouver Grizzlies, which was indicated at the top of the logo. The word “VANCOUVER” in red was located between the tops of the “G” and “S” of the next word – “GRIZZLIES,” which was light blue and three-dimensional.
Below was a grizzly bear, an American brown bear. The animal stood on its hind legs, and in the front, it held a basketball, clutching it with its claws. The artists specifically focused on the claws and teeth to make the bear look impressive.
2002 – 2004
When the 2000-2001 season ended, the club moved to Memphis and was named Memphis Grizzlies. In terms of visual identification, nothing has changed: the developers of the logo removed the word “VANCOUVER” and replaced it with “MEMPHIS.” Everything else remains the same, apart from a minor color modification: black has become more contrasting, and brown is brighter.
2005 – 2018
The first significant redesign took place in 2005. The club abandoned the old symbols and introduced a completely new sign in the form of a blue bear’s head with yellow eyes and the signature “MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES.” The figure is sketchy and abstract. The successful combination of several shades creates a 3D effect. The city’s name is written horizontally, and the team’s nickname is in the form of a reverse arch.
2018 – Present
In 2018, Memphis Grizzlies unveiled a redesigned logo with a gray outline around the bear’s head. The shades are slightly darker. The font has also changed: the serifs have disappeared from all letters, while the “S,” on the contrary, have them. The GRIZZLIES no longer bends upwards – it has been aligned horizontally.
The grizzly bear is a ferocious animal that served as the basis for the team image. It is reflected in the mascot, name, and logo, in the latter case, the artists used an abstract image rather than a realistic illustration. They portrayed the bear’s head in a minimalist style but managed to convey its harsh character using simple graphic techniques. Eyes that glow with an otherworldly yellow color, dark shadows, and menacingly drawn eyebrows are all designed to make the grizzly appear aggressive and dangerous.
Font and Colors
On the emblems of the basketball club, there is an inscription “MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES.” Until 2005, the word “GRIZZLIES” was three-dimensional, and from 2005 to 2018, it had the form of a reverse arch. Until 2018, “MEMPHIS” was written no less original: the letters “M” and “S” were high, and all the others were low, albeit in capital letters. The current logo features fonts created specifically for the team.
The color scheme includes gray (# 707271), Grizzlies Gold yellow (# FDB927), Memphis Midnight Blue (# 00285E), and Beale Street Blue (# 5D76A9). Gray replaced the smoky blue (# BED4E9), which was used until 2018. The retro emblem palette included black, brown, orange, and teal.