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Zach Randolph agreed to terms earlier this week on a two-year, $24 million contract to join the Sacramento Kings, marking his departure from the Grindhouse after a remarkable second act to his career spent helping transform the Memphis Grizzlies into a viable NBA franchise. For eight years, Randolph lorded over the low post at FedExForum, battering opposing front lines with hip checks and haymakers before stepping back to unleash beautiful, arcing lefty jumpers over the top of stirred and shaken defenders, and helping define one of the most authentic and remarkable cultures in the NBA.
For eight years, the Grizzlies knew that when it was time for a bucket, they could feed No. 50. Now, they’ll never do it again.
In an open letter from the franchise to its greatest player ever, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace and president of business operations Jason Wexler praised Randolph’s work on the court, where he exits Memphis third on the franchise’s scoring list and first in “field goals, rebounds and of course, takedowns.” They lauded the 35-year-old for his work as a “civic leader” who reached into his own pocket to get fans to playoff games and pay their utility bills. They pledged to continue to “respect the foundation built on Zach’s broad shoulders [by continuing] to Grit & Grind.”
They made another pledge, too:
To Zach — Thank you for all the joy and magical moments too numerous to count. Thank you for the energy and excitement you brought each and every night to FedExForum. Thank you for your leadership and service. Thank you for your larger than life impact and for keeping all Memphians warm. Thank you.
While there will be a time and place to recognize your lasting impact in Memphis, starting today, as stated earlier by Controlling Owner, Robert Pera, number 50 will never be worn by any other member of the Memphis Grizzlies.
When exactly the Grizzlies will “officially” retire Randolph’s number isn’t yet clear. Until then, though, nobody else is going to put their hands on it. (Which might be for the best. You put your hands on something that’s Z-Bo’s, and he might put his hands on you. You don’t want that. He’s good with these hands, man. He’s a jackin’ dude.)
Yes, committing to retire a player’s uniform number while he’s still actively playing in the league for another team does seem a bit odd. Not in this situation, though. Not really. Not when you consider what Z-Bo has meant to Memphis, and what Memphis has meant to him. With a relationship this deeply felt, there’s no sense in waiting around a couple more years; you should call your family when you think of them and tell your friends that you love them.
News of Randolph’s departure, and of the Grizzlies’ plan to honor him, was met with tributes from his former teammates …
… and from other NBA players …
… and even from a guy with whom the Grizz have a little bit of beef:
That’s the kind of respect Z-Bo gets in the game, and why the Grizzlies are getting a round of applause for showing such unbridled love on his way out the door.
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