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Grizzlies Honor Marc Gasol with Jersey Retirement Ceremony

Marc Gasol's jersey was hung in the rafters.
Marc Gasol's jersey was hung in the rafters.

The lights turned off, and the moment the packed FedEx Forum crowd had waited seven years for had arrived. A video flashed across the jumbotron, opening with those raucous Memphis playoff crowds and the words “Four men came together, changed a franchise and changed Memphis.” Career highlights of each of the four men were shown, and then it closed with the four of them in an empty FedExForum, in the jerseys known so well in this town. The smoke billowed by the Grizzlies’ bench, flames rose on both baskets, and the video faded into a dark hallway with the four figures illuminated only by the blue lights shining at the exit to the court. There they stood. 

In the midst of a season everyone wants to forget, after a game everyone will forget, there was an unforgettable night of reminiscing about the playoff runs, characters, moments, and feelings that transformed the Grizzlies into the Memphis Grizzlies. For the first time since 2017, the Core Four, the players that defined this franchise, were all together in the Grindhouse they built to celebrate the jersey retirement of the most Memphis of them all, Marc Gasol.  

It was a celebration of Memphis Grizzlies basketball, as the player with the most connections to the city and the franchise were honored. Gasol’s older brother and hall of famer Pau, the first all-star of the Memphis Grizzlies and the leader of the franchise’s first three playoffs teams, was in attendance. While Pau was a Grizzly, Marc played high school basketball at Lausanne, and grew up around the franchise, regularly getting shots up in the Pyramid before games. 

Marc was a part of the city and loved Memphis before most knew him as anything else besides “Pau’s brother.” He moved here not knowing a bit of English, but says the city accepted him to a level most places would not. He attributes Memphis rap to helping him learn English, as he and his high school teammates drove around Frasier looking for pickup games.  

He then went to Spain to play professionally instead of collegiately, and transformed into an incredible talent. This culminated in one of the most fascinating trades in NBA history, as Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers for his brother Marc, among other pieces, and the rest is history. 

The night that was for Marc Gasol, morphed into a salute of the Core Four, which appropriately highlighted why Gasol was the centerpiece of the group. His unselfishness and unwavering intensity on team basketball and playing the right way shone through.  

The love for his team centered focus was highlighted by all the teammates from the many versions that surrounded the constant of the Core Four that came, such as Jon Leuer, Tayshaun Prince, Mike Miller, Quincy Pondexter, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, Beno Udrih, and active 76er Kyle Lowry, who stayed after the game for the ceremony. Former coaches Lionel Hollins and Dave Joerger made appearances as well. Videos were played throughout the game of Gasol memories from former teammates and coaches, the best being Dillon Brooks remarking how Marc called him “fool” his whole rookie season, never once calling him his actual name.  

The Core Four had a roundtable discussion lead by Pete Pranica after their long awaited introduction, recalling their favorite moments as Grizzlies and the three others thought of their favorite memories of being Marc Gasol’s teammates, such as when he would yell at them in Spanish to pass him the ball, or be mad about winning a game by 20 because they did not play the right way. During this roundtable, Marc emphasized how important Mike, Z-Bo, and Tony were to him, and how he carried their attitudes and mindsets with him as he won his championship ring with the Toronto Raptors. A ring that materialized on the jumbotron, with the inscription of “Grit and Grind.” Even when he won a ring with another team, Memphis and the legacy the four of them left was still on his mind. 

Marc then gave a speech to the crowd, thanking everyone who was a part of the journey, before the culmination of one of the most special evenings in franchise history and one certain to be a key piece of franchise lore. A five-minute tribute video for Marc played, and then from a box at the home free throw, the banner rose from the fog, as Conley, Randolph, and Allen videotaped from the stage.  

As Project Pat said to close the tribute video of Marc and perfectly encapsulate why he is such an important figure to this city, “He showed us you don’t have to be from Memphis to be of Memphis.” The 7-foot-tall Spaniard has the second number to be retired in franchise history, with the family name that carries so much weight to the Grizzlies. As the banner hung above the court, it became official: no Grizzly will ever wear the number 33 of “Marc from Memphis” again. 

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