It’s a rivalry that’s often one-sided but still robust in starpower with Stephen Curry, Ja Morant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Dillon Brooks going head-to-head. The chirping on and off the court has helped make it one of the chippiest rivalries in the NBA.
The bad blood has provided fodder for some thrilling basketball games, but how did we get here? The rift between these two squads has spanned four seasons — and it all starts with Andre Iguodala.
The rookies vs. the vet
But the 2015 NBA Finals MVP never reported to training camp or expressed interest in suiting up for Memphis. “It’s been a blessing in disguise … I think it’s added some years to my career,” Iguodala said of sitting out on “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 brief tenure as their teammate.
“First time I seen him was on TV talking about us,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t even 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 at that type of stuff. A guy that’s on our team that doesn’t want to be on our team, I can’t wait ’til we find a way to trade him so we can play him and show him what really Memphis is about.”
Fate of the 8-seed
As luck would have it, the Grizzlies and Warriors faced off for the 8-seed in the regular-season finale.
Golden State led 55-49 at halftime, then Stephen Curry & Co. exploded in the third quarter and extended 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 final frame and converted a game-tying three-point play with 6:32 remaining. Shortly thereafter, Green drew Brooks’ sixth foul, which sent him to the bench for the final 6:12.
The Warriors went on to win 113-101, but thanks to the NBA’s introduction of its play-in tournament, it didn’t take long for these teams to meet again.
Run it back @warriors
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) May 20, 2021
Five days later, the rematch went to overtime.
Memphis had a 10-point advantage with 3:36 remaining, but clutch free throw shooting from Jordan Poole and Curry combined with timely layups by Green and Andrew Wiggins sent the game to extra minutes.
The Grizzlies earned the No. 8 seed with the 117-112 win and ended a three-year playoff drought.
Strength in numbers
After he spent the better part of two seasons as a bystander in the rivalry, things came full circle with Iggy’s return to Golden State for the 2021-22 season.
— 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 defeating them 123-95 in a game in which Curry, Thompson and Green did not play.
Strength in numbers 👏🏾
— JJJ (@jarenjacksonjr) March 29, 2022
The beef truly rose to prominence when the two teams met in the conference semifinals. Game 1 lived up to the hype, but Green participated in only half of it thanks to a second-quarter ejection. Thompson cashed in on a 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining that gave the Warriors a one-point edge. Morant missed a last-second layup that would’ve been enough to avoid the 117-116 loss for Memphis.
Broke the code
Game 2 was another essential episode in this tumultuous relationship. Brooks was ejected in the game’s opening minutes after striking Gary Payton II, who broke his left elbow in the incident.
The Golden State sideline, including head coach Steve Kerr, viewed it as a dirty play.
“Dillon Brooks broke the code,” Kerr said. “That’s how I see it.”
Whoop that trick
The Warriors entered Game 5 up 3-1, eager to end the Grizzlies’ playoff run.
Ahead of the potential series closer, Curry gave ESPN’s Kendra Andrews some insight on Golden State’s mentality, saying:
“Whoop That Trick” is a song by Memphis-born rapper Al Kapone — and it served as the Grizzlies’ unofficial anthem that played in FedExForum during late-game moments in the series.
The Grizzlies responded by putting up a 134-95 thrashing to avoid elimination.
Steph and Draymond still appeared to enjoy the moment the song played, despite the large deficit.
WHOOP THAT TRICK… Steph and Draymond enjoying 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 anticipating their next meeting.
“They know that we’re going to come every single year,” Brooks said. “We’re young, they’re getting old, so they know we’re coming every single year.”
Strength in numbers, II
Golden State went on to win the NBA Finals, but even on the league’s brightest stage, the Grizzlies still came to mind.
“Strength in numbers is alive and well,” Thompson said after winning the championship. “There was this one player on the Grizzlies [Jaren Jackson Jr.] who tweeted ‘Strength in numbers’ after they beat us in the regular season, and it pissed me off so much. I can’t wait to retweet that thing. Freakin’ bum. I had to watch that. I’m like, ‘This freakin’ clown.’ Sorry, that memory just popped up. Going to mock us? You ain’t ever been there before. We’ve been there before, we know what it takes. So to be here again, hold that.”
Morant didn’t take the slight at his teammate lightly, and it didn’t take long for Green to chime in.
got a lot of real estate 😂 https://t.co/5JYqhn8Vw0
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 17, 2022
im spinnin 🤐 https://t.co/MbmW1QhpUe
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 19, 2022
Two months later, they continued their offseason Twitter interactions by expressing their delight that the two teams were scheduled to face off as part of the NBA’s Christmas Day slate.
That’s the power of your voice Young! Let’s goooo! Bring the fam to the crib for dinner after https://t.co/xs8GpKkQtE
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) August 13, 2022
Fine in the West
Memphis jumped out to a 19-11 record, tied for best in the conference. Morant memorably declared that he was “fine in the West” and named the Boston Celtics as the Grizzlies’ only competition.
It proved to be fruitful bulletin board material for Golden State, which won the Christmas Day game 123-109. Although this matchup wasn’t a nailbiter, the history between the teams was apparent as seven technical fouls were assessed — with the Warriors accounting for six of them.
Their Jan. 26 meeting provided more drama with the Warriors’ comeback being capped by Poole’s last-second game-winning layup.
The feeling is mutual
Things heated back up after Brooks candidly 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. Gets away with a lot, too. His game is cool — with Golden State — but if you put him anywhere else, you’re not going to know who Draymond is. He plays with heart, plays hard, knows the ins and outs of their defense. I guess that’s why they like him over there.”
This prompted a response from Green on his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show.”
— The Volume (@TheVolumeSports) March 8, 2023
Brooks and the Grizzlies got the last word (figuratively) after their dominant 131-110 victory on March 9, their first win against the Warriors this season.
Despite the history, Green still says he wouldn’t call Memphis a rival.
“Rivalries are created by you win, I win. Clearly, we’ve won four times, and their organization has zero championships, so I can’t consider that a rivalry,” Green said after the game.
Semantics aside, he can’t deny that the relationship is at least entertaining.