Toronto Raptors: Fun Facts, History and Most Significant Games
The Toronto Raptors – our newly-minted NBA champs – overcame tremendous odds to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. Of course, as the only NBA team in Canada, there’s plenty to learn about our neighbors to the north and their winning team. One thing we know for sure is that Toronto Raptors ticket prices are bound to skyrocket coming off a championship win. Starting in the 2019-20 season, it won’t be easy to find cheap Toronto Raptors tickets unless you know where (and when!) to look. On the bright side, if you're looking to learn more about the Raptors and their fascinating history, we’ve got you covered.
The Raptors joined the NBA in 1995 as an expansion team along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, giving the league two Canadian franchises. But when the Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001, the Raptors became the only non-US franchise in the NBA, forcing them to carry the Maple Leaf flag for all of Canada.
Predictably, the Raptors struggled early in their history, finishing last in the Central Division in each of their first three seasons, including a 16-66 campaign during the 1997-98 season. But the arrival of Vince Carter in the 1998 season changed the tide. He gave Toronto a bonafide star and one of the most exciting players in the NBA. More importantly, he helped the Raptors to their first playoff appearance in 2000 and their first playoff series win in 2001. After Carter was traded in 2004, the torch was passed to Chris Bosh, who soon took over as Toronto’s marquee player. Bosh led the charge for the Raptors when they won their first-ever division championship in 2007.
However, it wasn’t until the 2013-14 season that the franchise truly hit its stride. The likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan formed the core of a team that has won five of the last six Atlantic Division titles. Playoff success eluded the Raptors, though, until they made the bold move of trading DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2018. Leonard turned out to be the missing piece of the puzzle. In his one and only season in Toronto, he and Lowry led the Raptors to the NBA Finals, beating the Warriors in six games to capture the first championship in franchise history.
A Few Fun Facts
In addition to being known for stars like Carter, Bosh, and Lowry, the Raptors have a reputation for being the favorite team of hip-hop artist Drake. The Toronto native has been a fan of the team since he was a kid, and in 2013, the Raptors officially made him a “global ambassador” for the team. Over the years, Drake has become a lucky charm for the Raptors. He’s frequently seen sitting court-side at games and was there during the team’s playoff run to the title in 2019. Of course, Drake is more than just a fan; he also plays a role in the team’s branding and marketing.
Another fun fact? The fans helped picked the Raptors' team name. A year before the team’s first season, fans submitted proposals that ultimately led to a list of 10 finalists, including the Beavers (Canada’s national animal), Bobcats, Dragons, and Tarantulas. Ultimately, the Raptors were chosen as the team’s nickname, likely influenced by the movie Jurassic Park that was released in 1993.
The purple and black colors the Raptors wear on their jerseys are unique and unmistakable compared to other NBA teams, as is the logo of a dinosaur dribbling a basketball with claws coming out of his shoes. However, if you look a little closer, the edges of the logo are a color called “Naismith Silver,” a nod to the inventor of basketball James Naismith, who was born and raised in Canada.
Memorable Raptors Games
Obviously, nothing can top Toronto’s run to the championship in 2019 and their four wins over the Warriors in the finals. Well, at least until the franchise wins another championship. But the Raptors have had plenty of other memorable games in the lead up to their first-ever NBA title.
It all started back on November 3, 1995. The team struggled in their first season and didn’t even have their own arena yet, playing their games at Skydome, the longtime of MLB’s Blue Jays. However, behind rookie Damon Stoudamire and a team of misfits, the Raptors won their first game in franchise history, beating the Nets 94-79.
The next milestone came in May 2001 when the Raptors won their first-ever playoff series by beating the Knicks 93-89. The Raptors fell behind 2-1 in the five-game series but won the final two games of the series thanks in large part to a Herculean effort from Vince Carter. Toronto then came painfully close to beating Philadelphia in the next round, forcing the series to seven games and missing a last-second shot in Game 7.
The Raptors made the penultimate step on the road to their championship on May 15, 2016, by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in team history. In Game 7 against the Miami Heat, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan took over, scoring a combined 63 points to secure a 116-89 win and take the Raptors to the conference finals. A little more than three years later, Toronto took that one last step and finally took home the NBA Championship.