Stern re­grets fate of Griz­zlies in Van­cou­ver

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS -

David Stern is proud Toronto has be­come a des­ti­na­tion for NBA play­ers.

And the league’s com­mis­sioner from 1984 to 2014 said any no­tion the city isn’t one died long ago.

“It has not worn off; it has been ex­ploded off,” Stern said. “Toronto has the most won­der­ful ar­ray of sports as­sets and a cos­mopoli­tan com­mu­nity and a great build­ing.

“It’s a plea­sure to see that it is a des­ti­na­tion city that play­ers want to go to.”

Stern over­saw the NBA’s ex­pan­sion to Canada dur­ing his ten­ure with both the Rap­tors and Van­cou­ver Griz­zlies join­ing the league ahead of the 1995-96 cam­paign.

But while the Rap­tors have flour­ished af­ter some early strug­gles, the Griz­zlies only lasted six sea­sons be­fore mov­ing to Mem­phis in 2001.

“I con­sider (Toronto) a great suc­cess,” Stern said. “Just as I con­sider Van­cou­ver to be one of our fail­ures.”

The 76-year-old still won­ders what might have been with the Griz­zlies.

“It doesn’t gnaw (at me),” Stern said. “But when I think of it I regret it was never re­ally (given) the at­ten­tion that it de­served be­cause it’s a beau­ti­ful and ex­tra­or­di­nary city.”

The Griz­zlies’ brief life in Van­cou­ver was plagued by a gro­cery list of is­sues, in­clud­ing ter­ri­ble teams, ques­tion­able front-of­fice de­ci­sions and a weak Cana­dian dol­lar. Stern said it felt at the time like they couldn’t catch a break.

“It was just aw­ful to me,” he said. “I still re­mem­ber grant­ing the ex­pan­sion fran­chise (and) I was so thrilled we had a fran­chise in Van­cou­ver.

“It was never man­aged to great suc­cess.”

Stern also be­lieves there’s a chance the NBA might one day re­turn to Canada’s West Coast.

“I would never say never about any­thing,” he said. “Van­cou­ver still has a great build­ing that it had when we were there.”

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