Golden State Warriors-Memphis Grizzlies Rivalry: A Timeline
- March 18, 2023
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The Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies bring out the best, and sometimes the worst, in each other.
It’s a rivalry that’s often one-sided but nonetheless strong in star power as Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Dillon Brooks go head-to-head. The chirp on and off the court has helped make it one of the liveliest rivalries in the NBA.
The bad blood has fueled some exciting basketball games, but how did we get here? The rift between these two sides spans four seasons – and it all starts with Andre Iguodala.
The novices versus the vet
In July 2019, Memphis acquired Iguodala in a trade with Golden State. The Warriors had to make room for a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell after Kevin Durant left for the Brooklyn Nets.
But the 2015 NBA Finals MVP has never reported to training camp or expressed an interest in qualifying for Memphis. “It was a blessing in disguise … I think it added a few years to my career,” Iguodala said of sitting out First Take in January 2020.
The following month, Memphis agreed to a deal with the Miami Heat that sent Iggy to South Beach. But before that, Grizzlies players expressed their displeasure with Iguodala’s short tenure as their teammate.
Were Brooks’ comments about Iguodala out of line?
Jay Williams responds to Dillon Brooks’ comments that he can’t wait for the Grizzlies to trade Andre Iguodala.
“I first saw him on TV talking about us,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t matter. Andre Iguodala is a great player. I feel like he’s doing the right thing for his career but we don’t really care. It’s not a distraction at all. I laugh about stuff like that.” One guy on our team who doesn’t want to be on our team, I can’t wait until we find a way to trade him in so we can play him and show him what Memphis is really about.”
Fate of the 8 seeds
As luck would have it, the Grizzlies and Warriors faced off for the 8-seed in the regular-season finals.
Golden State led 55-49 at halftime, then Stephen Curry & Co. exploded in the third quarter, extending their lead to 86-69. Brooks started the fourth quarter on an eight-point run that closed the gap to 86-77. He stayed hot in the last frame and converted a game-winning three-point game with 6:32 remaining. Shortly thereafter, Green drew Brooks’ sixth foul, which sent him to the bench to make it 6:12.
The Warriors won 113-101, but thanks to the NBA’s introduction of the play-in tournament, it wasn’t long before these teams met again.
Lead it back @Warrior
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) May 20, 2021
The rematch went into overtime five days later.
Memphis had a 10-point lead with 3:36 remaining, but clutch free throws from Jordan Poole and Curry combined with timely layups from Green and Andrew Wiggins sent the game into overtime minutes.
The Grizzlies secured 8th place with the 117-112 win, ending a three-year playoff drought.
Strength in numbers
After spending the better part of two seasons as a spectator in the rivalry, things came full circle with Iggy’s return to the Golden State for the 2021-22 season.
.@at the is back in THE BAY ‼️ pic.twitter.com/6Sfh39LQn0
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) August 11, 2021
The Grizzlies went 3-1 in the two teams’ regular-season matchups, and Jaren Jackson Jr. stirred the pot by tweeting the Warriors’ rally phrase after he saw them in a game where Curry, Thompson and Green did not play, defeated 123-95.
Strength in numbers 👏🏾
— JJJ (@jarenjacksonjr) March 29, 2022
The beef really got known when the two teams met in the conference semifinals. Game 1 lived up to the hype, but Green only attended half thanks to a second-quarter ejection. Thompson conceded a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left that gave the Warriors a one-point advantage. Morant missed a last-second layup that would have been enough to avoid the 117-116 loss for Memphis.
Broke the code
Game 2 was another important episode in this tumultuous relationship. Brooks was ejected in the opening minutes of the game after hitting Gary Payton II, who fractured his left elbow in the incident.
The Golden State touchline, including head coach Steve Kerr, viewed it as a dirty play.
“Dillon Brooks cracked the code,” Kerr said. “That’s how I see it.”
Oops, that trick
The Warriors went into Game 5 3-1, desperate to end the Grizzlies’ playoff run.
Ahead of the potential series closer, Curry gave ESPN’s Kendra Andrews an insight into the Golden State mentality, saying:
“Oops, that trick! That’s our game plan.”
“Whoop That Trick” is a song by Memphis-born rapper Al Kapone — and it served as the Grizzlies’ unofficial anthem, played on the FedEx Forums in late-game moments of the series.
The Grizzlies responded with a 134-95 caning to avoid elimination.
Steph and Draymond still seemed to enjoy the moment the song played, despite the huge deficit.
WHOOP THIS TRICK… Steph and Draymond enjoy it. pic.twitter.com/rZuatdxO8N
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) May 12, 2022
The Warriors won Game 6 110-96 to advance to the conference finals, and Memphis was already awaiting their next meeting.
“You know we’re going to come every year,” Brooks said. “We’re young, they’re getting old, so they know we’re coming every year.”
Strength in numbers, II
Golden State went on to win the NBA Finals, but even on the brightest stage in the league, the Grizzlies still came to mind.
“The strength in numbers is alive and well,” said Thompson after winning the championship. “There was this one player with the Grizzlies [Jaren Jackson Jr.] who tweeted “strength in numbers” after beating us in the regular season and that pissed me off so much. I can’t wait to retweet this thing. Damn bum. I had to see that. I say, ‘That damn clown.’ Sorry, that memory just popped up. do you want to mock us You have never been there. We have been there before, we know what is important. So to be back here, hold this.”
Morant didn’t take his teammate’s insult lightly, and it wasn’t long before Green chimed in.
got a lot of real estate 😂 https://t.co/5JYqhn8Vw0
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 17, 2022
I’m crazy 🤐 https://t.co/MbmW1QhpUe
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 19, 2022
Two months later, they continued their off-season Twitter interactions by expressing their joy at the two teams being set to face off as part of the NBA Christmas dinner table.
That’s the power of your voice, Young! Let’s go! Bring the family to the manger for dinner at https://t.co/xs8GpKkQtE
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) August 13, 2022
Good in the west
Memphis jumped out to a 19-11 record tied for best in the conference. Morant memorably declared that he was “doing fine out west” and called the Boston Celtics the Grizzlies’ only competition.
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It proved fertile bulletin board material for Golden State, which won the game 123-109 on Christmas Day. Although this duel was no nail biter, history between the teams was evident as seven technical fouls were assessed – with the Warriors accounting for six of them.
Their meeting on Jan. 26 provided more drama when the Warriors’ comeback was crowned by Poole’s last-second game-winning layup.
The feeling is mutual
Things heated up again after Brooks openly shared his disdain for Golden State with ESPN’s Tim Keown.
“I don’t like Draymond at all,” Brooks said. “I just don’t like Golden State. I don’t like anything to do with them. Draymond talks a lot. Also comes with plenty of it. His game is cool – with Golden State – but unless you tell him somewhere else you won’t know who Draymond is. He plays with heart, plays hard, knows the ins and outs of their defense. I think that’s why they like him over there.
This prompted Green to respond on his podcast, The Draymond Green Show.
.@Money23Green responds to Dillon Brooks’ comments pic.twitter.com/cHu7R9A5nf
— The Volume (@TheVolumeSports) March 8, 2023
Brooks and the Grizzlies had the final say (figuratively) after their dominant 131-110 win on March 9, their first win over the Warriors this season.
Brooks trolls Draymond in a post-game interview
Dillon Brooks reacts to Draymond Green after the Grizzlies defeated the Warriors.
Despite the story, Green still says he wouldn’t call Memphis a rival.
“Rivalries are created by you winning, I winning. We’ve clearly won four times and their organization has zero championships so I can’t see that as a rivalry.” said Green after the game.
Semantics aside, he can’t deny that the relationship is at least entertaining.