Toronto Raptors first logo
Toronto Raptors logo

Toronto Raptors HISTORY

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Quick facts:

Founded:                  1995  
Arena:                    Air Canada Center
Division Championships:   7(2007, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)     
Conference Titles:        1(2019)     
NBA Titles:               1(2019)
Playoffs                  11
Best Record:              59-23   2017-18
Worst Record:             16-66   1997-98

NBA's return to the Great North:
The Raptors are the second team to be in Toronto and one of 3 all-time to be in Canada. The first Toronto based team was the Toronto Huskies who played the first ever NBA game where they lost to the Knicks. The Huskies lasted only one season and the NBA would not return to Canada for another half-century. The city of Toronto was awarded a franchise in 1993, and months later the city of Vancouver was also awarded a franchise. With the Grizzlies relocation to Memphis, the Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada.

What's in the name?
When the NBA awarded the franchise to Toronto the original idea was to revive the Huskies name from the original NBA team, much like what the Denver Nuggets did when they changed their name from the Denver Rockets. There was one problem however, they could not come up with a logo design that would not look too much like the logo of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Not wanting to plagiarize the Wolves logo, the team held a nation wide competition to name the new team.

The success of the movie Jurassic Park and one of the films main antagonist, the velociraptors, lead to the naming of the new team to being Raptors. But much like the movies, the Raptors in the Toronto logo is not the velociraptor, but rather both are the much bigger and much more vicious utahraptor. The velociraptor was the size of a chicken, while the utahraptor was about 2 meters tall and looked much more like the dinosaurs in the film and in the Raptors logo.

Gaming issues:
The NBA has long had strict anti-gambling bylaws and regulations and these regulations almost cost the city of Toronto the Raptors. Ontario had legalized sports betting in 1995 and the NBA wanted to pull the plug on the teams in Canada if there was not some sort of regulation on NBA betting.

A deal was reached where as the Raptors donated $5 million dollars initially to Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and $1 million to their charity for the loss of income that the Gaming Corporation would sustain, and for their part the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation banned NBA sports betting.

The rules were lifted in 2018 when the NBA started to allow online sports betting.

The Mighty Mouse Era:
When the Raptors and Grizzlies joined the NBA they agreed that they would initially not be part of the NBA draft lottery and would instead settle for the 6th and 7th picks in the draft. A coin flip was held and the Raptors won the coin flip to get the first pick in the expansion draft, and because of that the Grizzlies got the 6th pick and the Raptors 7th.

The Raptors used the 7th pick on Arizona point guard Damon Stoudamire. The pick was met with boos from the new Raptors fans at the Sky Dome draft party as the fans wanted UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon. Stoudamire though, turned out to be the better player and quickly emerged as the new franchises first star.

In his first season with the Raptors he averaged 19 points per game and won rookie of the year honors. In his second season he became the first Raptor to average 20 points per game.

The Raptors struggled with Stoudamire during his tenure there and the losing started to become a point of contention for the star point guard. Two and a half years into his Raptors career Stoudamire asked for a trade and was shipped to the Portland Trailblazers.

What Could Have Been:
The Raptors and the Grizzlies had a clause in their expansion charters which prevented them for getting the top pick for the first three years of existence. This clause came back to bite the Raptors hard in 1996. The 1996 NBA Draft is one of the deepest in NBA history, but for the Raptors it is somewhat of a blemish.

The Raptors actually won the 1996 NBA draft lottery but because they had the agreement they were forced to pick second. The Sixers got the top pick and selected Georgetown's Allen Iverson. The Raptors selected Marcus Camby second overall. Camby turned into one of the best defensive players in the league but he was never an all-star, while Iverson became one of the most accomplished players of his era earning 11 all-star appearances and the 2000-01 NBA MVP.

The Raptors also missed out on future MVP's Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash as well as all-stars Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Antoine Walker, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal and ┼Żydr┼źnas Ilgauskas.

Vinsanity!:
The Raptors finally caught a break in the 1998 NBA Draft when they traded for Vince Carter. The Raptors originally drafted Carter's North Carolina teammate Antwan Jamison but swapped picks with the Golden State Warriors. Carter would make an immediate impact and made the Raptors one of the funnest teams in the NBA to watch.

Carter would lead the Raptors to their first ever playoffs in 2000 and in 2000 would also be the team's first ever selection to the NBA all-star game. Carter would go on to make 5 more all-stars with the Raptors and in 2001 lead the Raptors to their first ever playoff series win a 3-2 series win over the New York Knicks. The Raptors would lose in the second round in 7 games to the Iverson lead Philadelphia 76ers.

Unfortunately, the good times would quickly end for the Raptors. Carter would be plagued by injury issues and his cousin Tracy McGrady would leave the Raptors for the Orlando Magic. After six and half years with the franchise Carter demanded a trade in 2005. The Raptors traded Carter to the New Jersey Nets for less than ideal package of Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and 2 late first rounders.

All-star!
In February 2015 Toronto became the first non US city t host an NBA all-star weekend. The weekend was a smashing success with the highlight being the Dunk Contest showdown between Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon.

The All-star game itself was a classic with the west coming just 3 points shy of scoring 200 points in a game. Paul George almost broke Wilt Chamberlain's record for most points in an all-star game (42) when he scored 41 points. and Russell Westbrook became the first player since Bob Pettit to win back-to-back all-star MVP awards.

First NBA Finals outside the United States:
The Raptors hosted the first ever NBA finals not played in the United States, when they hosted the Golden State Warriors in game 1 of the 2019 NBA finals. They also became the first non-US team to win a NBA finals game when they defeated the Warriors 118-109.

First non-US Champion:
The Raptors became the first, and thus far only, non US team to win an NBA championship. With the exception of only the NFL, the other big 5 sports leagues in the US have had a Canadian champion.

Toronto Huskies logo
Toronto's first NBA team, the Huskies.


Vince Carter

Andrea Bargnani became the first European selected #1 overall in 2006.


Bismack Biyombo
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry

Kawhi Leonard lead the Raptors to their first ever NBA finals.

 

NBA History