Why Golden State coach Steve Kerr is finally ready to call Warriors-Grizzlies a rivalry

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — It's safe to say that there is a healthy level of mutual respect between the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors.

When Steve Kerr was asked in December 2021 about the Grizzlies being a rival of the Warriors, he denied the notion and mentioned that a playoff series and more things would need to happen. A little more than a year later — after a playoff series and Christmas Day meeting — Kerr believes the Grizzlies-Warriors matchup has become a rivalry.

"Memphis is on the rise," Kerr said after practice Tuesday. "They've got a great young team. Obviously, we had a hell of a series with them last year. There's been some healthy bickering and a little bit of a rivalry, so it's fun when we play them."

The NBA thinks so, too. The Grizzlies (31-16) and Warriors will be meeting again on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. CT on ESPN as part of the NBA’s Rivalry Week coverage debuting on the schedule this season.

The Grizzlies and Warriors (23-24) have ended each other’s season the past two years. Memphis defeated Golden State in the 2021 NBA play-in, then the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies during the 2022 Western Conference semifinals in six games.

"The playoff series made that happen," Kerr said, referring to a rivalry. "The league put us on Christmas Day together, so the league is pushing for it as well."

With every rivalry comes a narrative. The one between the Warriors and Grizzlies has several storylines on and off the floor. Andre Iguodala was traded to Memphis and never played a game in a Grizzlies uniform. That move was not appreciated by Grizzlies players. After the Warriors beat the Grizzlies in the 2022 playoffs, Dillon Brooks reminded people that the Warriors are older, and Memphis is coming.

"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."

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This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Grizzlies-Warriors: Steve Kerr finally ready to call it an NBA rivalry