Hey! Whatever Happened To Bryant Reeves?

By Brian Taylor

Welcome back people! I took a brief hiatus to mourn the passing of the Wizards’ 2006-2007 season, but now that the Cavaliers have finally euthanized my squad, I can focus my attention back to bringing you the best (and worst) of the Ghosts of Basketball Past.

The center position is one of immense scrutiny, as he’s usually the tallest guy on the court, and he never has an on-court, counterpart teammate (there are always 2 guards and 2 forwards). When these guys are good, even marginally, they’re highly sought after, but when they suck, they stand out like sore thumbs. Who would be the poster boy for an overrated, overpaid, under skilled center with a mismanaged basketball market? Why Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, that’s who!

In his college years at Oklahoma State, Bryant Reeves was an imposing physical presence, towering over his opponents at 7’0”, 275lbs. In 1995, his OSU Cowboys went all the way to the Final Four (before bowing out to Ed O’Bannon, George Zidek and Tyus Edney at UCLA). It wasn’t long before the “great big man drought” had GM’s running to sign anyone over 6’11”, and Bryant Reeves, with an impressive college career and tourney run, would get called up by the then Vancouver Grizzlies.

Things weren’t too bad for Reeves and the Grizz that first year, as he averaged 13pts and 8rebs. In his next two seasons, he went for 16 points and 8 boards a night. Not only did it come together for “Big Country” on the court, but it seemed as if he was made to play for Vancouver, right down to his Paul Bunyan, lumberjack look. Heck, he even poured in 41 points against Boston in ’98. When Shareef Abdur-Rahim came along, the Grizz were poised to make some noise.

But as usual with these stories, the buffet table was calling, and poor Bryant answered. How could you expect a guy with the name “Big Country” to turn down multiple trips to Denny’s in Vancouver? He showed up to training camp in ’99 about 40 lbs overweight. It got to the point where he couldn’t take off his warm-ups without breaking a sweat, and pretty soon he looked less like an NBA center, and more like one of the extras from that old Scottie Pippen/timewarp commercial (“You’re gonna make thousands kid!”).

But even worse than having a space-eating center, Big Country had a team-eating contract to the tune of $65 million, and to this day that contract is believed to be the downfall of basketball in Western Canada. The Grizzlies owner couldn’t do anything with a 7’0” albatross around his neck, the fans felt alienated and next thing you know, the team was calling Graceland it’s new home.

With the lack of motivation, loss of playing time, and a brokenhearted city on his name, Reeves called it a career in the middle of the 2001 season at the age of 27.

I couldn’t find anything good on Youtube with Reeves in action, the picture is an accurate enough depiction of him in games…still and lifeless. However, I have a blast from the past in the Grizzlies first season in Vancouver, with their first win ever, over the Minnesota Timberwolves (Gugliotta/Garnett edition). Hit the links!

Comments (13)

  1. That line in the video clip, “get ready to watch the fur fly” was hilarious! Great find B Teezy!!

    Can you imagine how things could have been different in Canada if Vancouver had selected Mighty Mouse instead of Big Country? Or, better yet, of KG had slid down to Vancouver. There may have been two pro teams in Canada still…

  2. Big Country is one of the many college players(ed ‘obannon and dontae jones to name two) who fool nba scouts by having incredible tournament runs, only to suck ass in the nba. and judging by the pic you linked, i would not be at all surprised if reeves is doing porn right now..the goatee is a dead giveaway.

  3. Jaz

    I thought Reeves hung it up because of back problems. No doubt the extra weight would have had a part in that.

  4. Tom Scott

    Reeves, Vin Baker, and probably a couple others got fat during the lockout and were never the same again.

  5. Chad

    This article is loaded with inaccuracies, so I chose to focus on the most glaring:

    Bryant Reeves was definitely overrated and overpaid (as was every NBA player during the period in which he signed the big contract), but not under skilled. He had soft hands, good shooting touch and some good post moves as evidenced by his two 16 point, 8 rebound seasons (he was a 20 and 10 player for the second half of the latter). Players in the NBA don’t put up those kinds of numbers by being “under skilled”.

    “…it seemed as if he was made to play for Vancouver, right down to his Paul Bunyan, lumberjack look.” You have obviously never been to Vancouver judging by that ignorant statement! Cities in the American Midwest are befitting of that statement; Vancouver is on the west coast.

    There is a sundry list of more significant reasons as to why the Grizzlies left Vancouver than Reeves’ contract; a lack of corporate support, poor ownership/management, NBA players refusing to play in Vancouver, and restrictions placed on the Canadian expansion teams by the NBA just to name a few.

    Reeves’ retirement was primarily due to chronic back problems and knee problems, not the inaccurate and/or speculative reasons mentioned in the article.

    There is much more, but I don’t have all night. A little more focus on research might be in order.

    Greater Vancouver resident
    Former Grizzlies seasons ticket holder (95–96 through 97–98)

  6. t diddy

    There are only two ways to make it to the league–you find basketball or basketball finds you. Big Country wasn’t looking for basketball, it found him. He is much more in his element raising cattle in Oklahoma now. He was an emotional pick for the Grizz, who needed to make an immediate impact in a situation where the league handcuffed expansion teams by blocking lottery draft picks.

  7. Valerie Kisling

    I called him a gentleman earlier – saw him recently at the KU game in Stillwater and tried to speak with him. He blew me off. At first I was mad, then just kinda sad for him. It’s too bad. His wife was very sweet.

  8. This article is an example of racism in basketball. I saw when Reeves put up 41 points on the Celtics. I also saw Reeves wilter when pitted against Shaq. Nevertheless, prior to his weight, back and knee problems he was probably a top five center, thereby qualifying him for the salary boost he got from Vancouver’s GM. Like many pro athletes, once they sign the big contract they never live up to expectations. Additionally, the mix with Rahim was a disaster. Rahim, also highly over-rated, killed every team he was on, including the Olympics. Rahim’s demand for the ball in the post, lousy outside shooting, and inability to pass also led to Reeve’s demise and a Vancouver franchise to die on the vine.

    Don’t blame Reeves for Vancouver leaving, blame Rahim.

  9. Big Jack

    Bryant is working cattle and has more cash than most of these losers that retire from the nba. It’s hilarious really. Unless ESPN picks up one of those morons they don’t stand a chance lol. A country boy from Oklahoma can make money without basketball…a ghetto born g thang won’t unless he can talk well or rap…and the market is saturated with both kinds of idiots. And if you think my post is racist you are just another dipshit liberal bitch that is too stupid to face the truth about America.

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