The modern NBA doesn’t have many exciting rivalries. However, the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies’ blossoming rivalry is shaping up to be the best in the league. The two teams have ended each other’s seasons the past two years. The Warriors defeated the Grizzlies 4-2 in the second round of last year’s playoffs en route to their 2022 NBA championship. Meanwhile, Memphis knocked Golden State out of the NBA play-in tournament in 2021.
According to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the two teams are now in the middle of a rivalry following their playoff series. This comes as the league is heavily marketing the teams’ matchups, having scheduled their games for Christmas Day and during this week's "NBA Rivals Week."
"The playoff series made (the rivalry) happen," Kerr said.
"The league put us on Christmas Day together, so the league is pushing for (the rivalry) as well," Kerr continued.
However, a playoff series alone isn’t always enough to create a rivalry as many teams face off in the playoffs each year. A true rivalry usually requires a combination of an exciting storyline and some animosity between the two teams. It also needs big enough names involved to make fans care. This is exactly what Memphis Grizzlies versus Golden State Warriors matchups provide.
On one side is a young, up-and-coming, confident Grizzlies team looking to get over the hump and make their first NBA Finals appearance. The team has star power in All-Star guard Ja Morant, one of the most marketable players in the game due to his constant highlight-worthy plays. The Grizzlies also feature some unlikeable characters as well, most notably defensive wing Dillon Brooks.
“They know we’re going to come every single year. We’re young and they’re getting old,” Brooks famously said following last year’s playoffs.
On the other side is a grizzled, veteran Warriors team whose core has already won four titles together. The Warriors are trying to maximize the last few years of their championship core while also retooling for the future. Meanwhile, they still have elite star power in superstar point guard Steph Curry. They also have one of the most hated players in the NBA in All-Star forward Draymond Green.
On top of this, both teams feature two of the most likable players in the NBA, which adds to conflicting fan emotions. The two players being Warriors star shooting guard Klay Thompson and Grizzlies center Steven Adams. Young up-and-coming stars like Desmond Bane and Jordan Poole only add to the excitement as well.
So all thing considered, it’s basically a battle of two generations with an interesting mix of personalities on both sides. And most importantly, the two teams just don’t like each other.
"It's a classic story of a young team trying to knock the aging team off the mountain," Kerr said.
"It makes for a good story, and it's definitely fun to compete," Kerr continued.
Draymond Green doesn’t believe the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies have a rivalry
Despite all the excitement growing around the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies’ budding rivalry, Draymond Green still isn’t convinced there is one. Before the two teams’ highly anticipated matchup on Wednesday night, Green took to his podcast “The Draymond Green Show” to discuss their potential rivalry. Green explained that while it’s always fun to face the Grizzlies, the team hasn’t accomplished enough for them to be considered the Warriors’ rivals.
"I don't think they've accomplished enough yet to consider it a rivalry,” Green said.
Ironically, comments like this are what fuels the youngsters versus old-timers narrative that Steve Kerr mentioned. It’s also likely what fuels the Grizzlies' players and gives them extra motivation every time they see the Warriors.
Following Green’s comments, the Warriors proceeded to secure an exciting 122-120 last-second win over Memphis on Wednesday. The Warriors were led by Steph Curry, who finished with a game-high 34 points. Ja Morant led Memphis with 29 points and 12 assists. However, Curry ended up getting ejected with just over a minute remaining. This led to Jordan Poole winning the game on a layup with just 1.0 seconds remaining.
With the win, Golden State moved back to .500 at 24-24 and eighth in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Memphis fell to 31-17 and second in the West. The Grizzlies remain a full seven games ahead of the Warriors in the standings. However, Golden State is now 2-0 versus Memphis this season, which should only continue to motivate the young Grizzlies moving forward.
Also read: NBA Rivals Week 2023: Top 5 most exciting matchups as league debuts new concept