The Toronto Raptors were established in the year 1995 when the National Basketball Association (NBA) decided to expand its reach to Canada. Their home games are played at the Scotiabank Arena, which is also used by the National Hockey League’s Toronto-based team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They are coached by Nick Nurse and boast a confident squad of star players like point guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell.
Here are some facts about the 2019 championship winners that you should know:
1. The Toronto Raptors’ Victory Parade
The 2018-19 championship-winning season was the first title in the Raptors’ history, and their fans back in Canada were head over heels about their massive achievement. The Raptors had organized a parade to commemorate their success in Toronto on June 17. The show started at the Princes’ Gates in Exhibition Place and carried on through to the Nathan Phillips Square right next to the Toronto City Hall. Over two million people attended this parade, and the proceedings were delayed by three hours as a result. To add to the celebrations, this was the most significant public gathering in the history of Canada as a country.
The Toronto Raptors won the championship beating the Golden State Warriors in a best of seven series, and they set two records by doing so. Firstly, they became the first Canadian team to win an NBA final, and secondly, it was their first individual NBA final victory in their history that has a club. Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors was declared the MVP of the series.
2. The Toronto Raptors are the Only Canadian Team in the League
Although the Vancouver Grizzlies accompanied them as part of the NBA’s expansion to Canada, the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to the American state of Tennessee, namely to the city of Memphis. They then acquired the name the Memphis Grizzlies. They never made it to the playoffs in their six years as the Vancouver Grizzlies and finished last in their division for five of their six seasons representing Canada. This was part of the reason for their relocation.
Hence, since the 2001-02 season, the Toronto Raptors have been the only team to be based in Canada. John Bitove’s $125 million expansion project was the most amount of money spent on a side at that time.
3. The Original Home Stadium
Formerly known as the SkyDome when it was opened in the year 1989, and now known as the Rogers Centre (since 2005), this stadium was the original home stadium of the Toronto Raptors, and their home games were played here from their inception in 1995 – 1999. Then the venue shifted to the Scotiabank Arena. The Scotiabank Arena was formerly known as the Air Canada Centre previously.
4. How They Got Their Name
The fans were asked to send in suggestions for what they thought the Toronto-based team should be called. A lot of very cool-sounding names were submitted. Among those, the notable ones were the Dragons, Hogs, Scorpions, Grizzlies, Beavers, Tarantulas, and the T- Rex. The one that got the cake was the Raptors.
Now, there is a reason behind the team being named Raptors, and that reason has no connection with basketball. It is, instead, with the world of cinema. At the time of the formation of the team, the immensely popular movie Jurassic Park had just come out, and it was a massive hit. The film featured lots of menacing dinosaurs, including the T-Rex and the Velociraptors, or Raptors for short.
However, to the disappointment of the Canadians, the new team with the cool name had a very disappointing first few seasons. That fate, however, did not last very long.
5. The Championship Rings
The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Final in the 2018-19 season, and every one of their players was presented with a gold ring, that was covered in an astounding 640 diamonds! This makes the rings offered to the Raptors the most expensive and the most massive championship rings ever to be made and presented in the history of the NBA.
The extra sentiment is added when you’ll come to know that the ring was designed by the Toronto Raptors’ point guard and five-time NBA all-star, Kyle Lowry.
6. The Fanbase
Much like other sports teams, fans of the Toronto Raptors can be found all over the world. They have fans in India, the USA, Singapore, and many other countries that have brilliant up-and-coming basketball talents. The Raptors fans set record-beating sales of the team’s championship-winning gear in 2019, beating previous year’s champs the Golden State Warriors by about 80 percent!
To lay more emphasis on the level of fans that the only Canadian team has across the world, you’ve got to know about the officially recognized super fan, Nav Bhatia.
Nav Bhatia’s dedication towards the Toronto Raptors knows no bounds, and he has never missed one single game of the Raptors’ in their twenty-four seasons competing as a team in the NBA. He was presented with the same championship ring that was given to the players when they won the title in 2019, an excellent decision by the club to recognize and give back to their supporters, without whom, the game and the glory has no meaning.
Another super fan of the Toronto Raptors is the world-famous rapper Drake. The rapper is known for his ringside seat near the scorer’s table and is extremely enthusiastic about the team, occasionally interacting with the players themselves. However, this dedication towards the Canadian side is not only for the paparazzi to go wild over, and Drake has undoubtedly proven that. He has been recognized as the team’s official global ambassador since the year 2013, and he took it up a notch when the club decided to partner with Drake’s brand October’s Very Own.
Drake has been known to give back to the community a lot, and he had made that statement with the Raptors as well when he raised $3 million to repair and maintain basketball courts in Canada. Another $2 million to help Canadian basketball grow. Drake’s efforts have certainly made a difference, with the team making it to the playoffs every single season since the partnership began, and now they have won their first title as well. The team’s value has grown more than twofold in the last six years, that is, according to Forbes.
7. The Important Matches
Leaving aside the best of seven series with the Golden State Warriors, the Raptors had another few essential games in their lifetime.
Their first victory as a team playing in the NBA came back in their first season; on November 3, 1995, with a win against the Nets, the scoreline read 94-79 at the end of the game. This was back when the Raptors used to play their games at the SkyDome.
In May 2001, the Raptors beat the New York Knicks to win their first-ever playoff series 98-89. They were 2-1 down after three games played, but star player Vince Carter turned their fate around, thanks to some well-needed personal brilliance on the basketball court.
The Raptors almost beat Philadelphia in the next round, but ultimately fell short of the mark at the very last second of the seventh game between them and the Phillies.
In May of 2016, Toronto Raptors beat Miami Heat to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the very first time in the history of the franchise. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan took the game home after beating Heat 116-89.
8. The Toronto Raptors’ Jersey
It is well known that the old boys from Toronto love their hockey just as much as Canada loves its maple syrup, and John Bitove had that very well ingrained in his mind when he started to plan the team jersey with NBA Creative Director Tom O’Grady. He played it smart and wanted the fan base to consist of women and children mainly. In his mind, the plan was to appeal to the younger, newer generation.
Although the first few sketches drafted for the team logo had a lime green raptor on them, there was nothing very Canadian about it. Bitove was hence pressured to make the logo a tad bit more appealing to the Canadian population. O’Grady then decided to turn the Raptor “Canadian Red,” and the lettering which read “Toronto Raptors” was changed from Bronze to “Naismith Silver” to pay homage to the inventor of Basketball and Canada’s own James Naismith.
The Toronto Raptors became the first team in the history of the NBA to wear a camo jersey to show their support to the Canadian military during 2017’s Canadian Forces Night. The red away jersey was first used as an alternate from its introduction in 2004 through to 2006 and was later used as an away kit for the team. It is hence, the longest-running jersey the club has ever worn.
Coming back to Drake’s brand OVO and their partnership with the Toronto Raptors, according to Forbes (again), their launch of practice jerseys was the first ever to be launched in the history of the competition. After a seven thousand-person online years waitlist, the collection was sold out in a mere ten minutes. The practice collection included items like hoodies, jerseys, pants, and other practice gear.
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