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Grizzlies get finger-lickin' treatment

The future of the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies could come down to a simple business decision: FedEx or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Owner Michael Heisley must decide by Monday where he wants to take his Grizzlies. Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., the parent company of KFC, and FedEx Corp. are ready to pay him millions if he chooses Louisville, Ky., or Memphis, Tenn.

"If he selects Louisville, he'll get all the free chicken — Kentucky Fried Chicken — he can eat for the rest of his life," said Jonathan Blum, a senior vice president for Tricon.

Call it the latest escalation in the war to lure relocating sports franchises, but Memphis and Louisville have enlisted two very big corporations in their bids to land the NBA team.

The companies are offering up plenty of money — they won't say how much. In return, they want more than just their corporate names in big letters on an arena.

Tricon and FedEx see an unprecedented marketing opportunity to slap their brand on the NBA team itself.

Forget the Memphis or Louisville Grizzlies. Instead, try the Kentucky Colonels, after KFC founder Col. Harland Sanders, or the Memphis Express, for the delivery company.

"There's a marketing synergy there that is very, very powerful," Blum said. "It would allow us to put the KFC brand into the mainstream of professional basketball. That would be a very powerful thing for our brand."

FedEx has the same thought.

"We have a very broad appeal, one of the most recognizable brands in the world," FedEx spokeswoman Carla Boyd said. "I think it would all fit together."

Of course, the NBA has final say over everything involving franchise relocation, including the team's nickname.

New Orleans, Anaheim and the Chicago suburb of Dixmoor are the other cities trying to land the team.