As a seven-year-old Kat Jayme was so blinded by her love for the Vancouver Grizzlies it took her another 20 years and a self-made documentary to understand exactly what happened to the once-beloved franchise and her favourite player ‘Big Country’ Bryant Reeves.
From 1994 to 2001 nothing really seemed to go right for the Griffiths’ family’s NBA expansion franchise that cohabited then GM Place (now Rogers Arena) with the Vancouver Canucks. They started in 1995, but spiralled out of control within six years and were moved to Memphis. In hindsight, most of the Grizzlies’ demise can be attributed to both the NBA’s incompetence as well as the Grizzlies’ own management. Some of it was bad luck.
All of it, however, had closure, except for the story of Big Country, said Eric Yue, a Victoria resident who is co-hosting a screening of Jayme’s Finding Big Country on Saturday night, April 13 at 7 p.m. at The Vic Theatre downtown.
“I still love the [memory] of the Grizzlies and I still think we need an NBA franchise in Vancouver,” Yue said, recalling many youthful B.C. Ferries sailings to see the Grizzlies. “We were curious, we were interested, Victoria’s just across the water, I think there was just as much [Island] passion for the Grizzlies as there was on the Mainland.”
The award-winning documentary charmed audiences at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival, where it earned the Super Channel People’s Choice Award.
“Big Country, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Mike Bibby, when Grizzlies fans hear those names, it brings back some big feelings and there’s closure to all those other stories, but no one covered what happened with Reeves,” Yue said.
Yue, 42, and his brother Chris, 46, co-run Victoria’s 77-team Hockey 101 recreational hockey league. When they heard about the film and that it’s being screened around B.C., they reached out to the filmmaker. Jayme not only added Victoria to her tour she will also be at The Vic screening for a question and answer session with the film’s producer, Michael Grand.
In 2001, the Grizzlies moved to Memphis and with the team went Reeves’ career, which few realized was already over. Quietly, without a retirement announcement or any press at all, Reeves disappeared from the spotlight, unaffiliated with the NBA fraternity, not responding to any media requests.
Most speculated he returned to his family’s farming ways in middle-America, but no one really knew.
It was the opposite of how it started, when, despite the Grizzlies (and the Toronto Raptors, which came in at the same time) being controversially kept out of the top-five of the 1995 NBA draft, Grizzlies management believed it had the franchise player it needed, taken sixth overall, in seven-foot-tall Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.
Only one year earlier he had captured the American basketball imagination as the baby-faced giant who drove Oklahoma State to the NCAA Final Four. So what happened?