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!