The Memphis Grizzles have only been in existence for 22 seasons, and have yet to have a player make such a lasting contribution that he garnered having his number retired. That will change this season, as the franchise announced Thursday that the first number they will retire will be the number 50 of Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies made the declaration in an open letter to Randolph that was signed by general manager Chris Wallace and president of business operations Jason Wexler. Randolph’s eight-year tenure in Memphis ended Tuesday when he agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, a decision made after the Grizzlies declined to make a competitive offer, according to sources.

“Thank you for all the joy and magical moments too numerous to count,” the letter read in part. “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.”

Randolph, who will turn 36 on July 16, established himself as a local legend over the past eight seasons in Memphis, a city that embraced him for his rugged playing style and for overcoming a rough upbringing. He has played a critical role in the Grizzlies’ seven straight playoff appearances and ranks first in franchise history in rebounds (5,612) and third behind Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in points (9,261). A two-time All-Star and 16-year NBA veteran, Randolph accepted a transition to sixth man last season and excelled in his reserve role. He averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. His 20 double-doubles were the most by any bench player in the league.

Those statistics were down from Randolph’s career averages (16.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG), but his per-36-minute scoring and rebounding numbers were the best of his Memphis tenure. Many Grizzlies fans honored the player known as “Z-Bo” this week by making donations in his name to pay utility bills for underprivileged families. Randolph has donated $20,000 annually for several years to the cause, one of many ways he gave back to the Memphis community.

“Zach helped establish what it means to play for the Grizzlies on the court and in the community, and in doing so helped forge an identity for our City,” the open letter read. “His numerous on the court accomplishments speak for themselves. He is our all-time leader in field goals, rebounds and of course, takedowns. He is a proud civic leader and an extraordinary hands-on community benefactor. It is no coincidence that our collective dedication to service in our communities and our pride in Memphis surged during his time here.”

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