Stern regrets fate of Grizzlies in Vancouver
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.”