In case you missed last week’s post, the team here at Raptors Cage began a 10-week segment entitled “#NorthernNostalgia”. Over the course of this time, we will post weekly installments composed of memorable moments and players from Toronto Raptors history. Feel free to use #NorthernNostalgia on Twitter and Facebook to reminisce with fellow fans and share your most cherished recollections.
For this weeks edition, we travel back in time twenty years to the inception of the entire Raptors franchise. After a nationwide contest was held to determine the team’s name, the list was narrowed down to: Beavers, Bobcats (yikes), Dragons, Grizzlies (I’m guessing Vancouver got the leftovers), Hogs, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, Terriers and the Jurassic Park-inspired Raptors. On May 15th 1994, then-team president John Bitove Jr. held a press conference to announce the identity of Canada’s first NBA franchise:
The first thing that jumps out here is the seemingly prophetic nature of this footage. A mustachioed Rod Black states that the purple and black Raptors merchandise will “be very hot with young and with the old.” Take a walk through downtown Toronto today and you’re likely to see similar clothing on longtime fans and those aiming for a retro/hipster look. Bitove also mentions the budding rivalry between the Raps and Vancouver. While the Vancouver Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001, the two teams did compete in five annual preseason matchups which were branded as the “Naismith Cup” (Dinos won the series 4-1). Aside from these moderately accurate predictions, the most resonating snippet of this video is Bitove’s declaration that “NBA basketball here in Canada is here to stay for a long time.” After 20 years of Raptors basketball, it’s safe to say that he was right on the money. Not only has the team cemented its professional identity across the entire nation, but it has contributed to the growth of the sport in virtually all areas. There are currently 12 Canadian players in the NBA- the most out of any other international country. Included in this figure are Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, who made Toronto the first city with back-to-back first overall picks in NBA history. Despite the team’s past struggles on the court, it has been enormously successful in connecting with communities and generating a spreading interest in the game itself. With next season’s proposed rebranding, it’s important to revisit the roots of Toronto basketball and acknowledge its impact on Canada as a whole.
Tomorrow night’s contest against the Washington Wizards is marketed as the first “20th Anniversary Night” of the season. Players will wear vintage throwback jerseys and fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt reportedly featuring the names of every player to ever don the purple/red.
Raptors say fans at game Friday will get throwback purple t-shirt feat. name of every player in team history within claw logo
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) November 6, 2014
After two full decades, the Raptors name lives on and continues to hold a special place in the hearts of fans everywhere. Remember to use #NorthernNostalgia to share your favourite memories and stay tuned for next week’s installment!