British Columbia

'We're ready to have one:' film director would love NBA to return to Vancouver

The documentary Finding Big Country follows filmmaker Kat Jayme's journey to find out what happened to her childhood hero, basketball player Bryant Reeves. Jayme hopes the film can help spur action on bringing an NBA team back to Vancouver.

VIFF documentary Finding Big Country follows super-fan's journey to find childhood hero

Bryant (Big Country) Reeves and the Vancouver Grizzlies held court in B.C. from 1995-2001 until relocating to Memphis. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Spoiler alert: Former NBA Grizzlies star Bryant 'Big Country' Reeves does get found in a documentary showing at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

But for filmmaker and super-fan Kat Jayme, Finding Big Country isn't so much about the result, as it is about the journey.

"Now that this film is out, everyone is sort of remembering these memories that have been buried, or we have forgotten and we're remembering how much we loved this team," Jayme said in an interview with CBC Vancouver's Dan Burritt.

Grizzlies gone for 17 years and counting

In 2001, after just six years in the NBA, the Grizzlies were sold and moved to Memphis, where they have remained.

The Grizzlies may be long gone, but if there's any doubt about Vancouver's appetite for professional basketball, look no further than the Toronto Raptors' pre-seaon game attendance.

For their fourth visit to Vancouver in five years, tickets for the Raptors game sold out in less than 20 minutes. Attendance for the game was 18,654.

For her part, Jayme is 100 per cent on board with bringing a team back to the city.

"That's one of the main goals of this film, to get the conversation going to start a movement. Let's bring a team back to Vancouver. We want one, we need one and we're ready to have one."

Cult hero 'Big Country'

Reeves was the first rookie player ever drafted by Vancouver, and taken sixth overall in the 1995 NBA draft.

Standing seven-feet tall, Reeves was usually the biggest player on the court.

Three basketball players wearing the Vancouver Grizzlies kit.
Left to right: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Bryant Reeves and Mike Bibby pose for a publicity shot in 1999. (Reuters)

Despite a strong collegiate resumé, Reeves never quite lived up to his billing, managing just one accolade — NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 1996 — in a six-year, injury-shortened career.

The Grizzlies' general manager at the time, Billy Knight, said back troubles caused by degenerative spinal discs forced Reeves to retire.

A lack of media attention around the player who was once a face of the franchise is what motivated Jayme to tell his story. 

"He was our franchise player… he was the big guy on the court, had the coolest nickname and then he just vanished. That's why there's so much intrigue." 

Finding Big Country is screening again Monday, October 8 and Wednesday, October 10.