While we wait for training camp to get going, thought today I would take a step back and look at history of this franchise. Well more my own personal history with the Raptors. This will be the 15 season that the Raptors have been in the NBA. It may surprise some people but at first I was not sure if I was going to be a Raptor fan. I was excited that the NBA was returning to Canada. Well at least historically, for me it was a first as it was for majority of folks. I am pretty sure most of us were not alive when the Toronto Huskies played in the first season of the NBA. I had always been a basketball fan but driving all the way to Detroit was never something I had done. So just to have the ability to go watch an NBA game was exciting. That is something 15 years later I think we all take for granted. Slowly I started to grow attached to this new team. The clincher for me was the drafting of Damon Stoudamire. I had watched him play at Arizona and was a big fan of how he played the game. Prior to that I cheered for the Hornets. Damon would show all of those people that booed him on draft night just how wrong they were. He would win the Rookie of the Year Award in that first season. Mighty Mouse was the first star this team had and it was fun to watch him play. He would get a triple double early in that first season which since has been a rare event for the Raptors.
It was sad that Damon's time with the Raptors was not as long as you might have hoped for and should have been. Damon would never have the success or fame that he did as a Toronto Raptor. In that first season the Raptors also had one of the Michigan's "Fab 5" in Jimmy King. He would not do as well as his college team members in the NBA. Webber, Rose and Howard all had longer and more successful careers. But at least my Michigan Wolverines will always be an answer to a trivia question. Jimmy King would be the first of many second round picks that would not work out so well for the Raptors. That first Raptor team also had John Salley who these days is known for The Best Damn Sports Show but was of course part of championship teams with Pistons. There was the Big O aka Oliver Miller who I think is easily the largest Raptor is history. Zan Tabak, Alvin Robertson, Carlos Rodgers and many others are names that we all may remember from those early days.
Like any expansion team it was a group of misfits.The uniforms with the big red Dino and purple all over fit that nicely. Still they were our misfits and there was something to that. So many names have rolled through on this squad over the years. Jerome Williams is one that will always stick out for me. He was not part of those early days. However the story of him jumping in his truck and driving from Detroit to Toronto is a blizzard is a story I will never forget. I have had to meet him a couple times back in early 2000's and he was just a great person and fun loving guy. Still is for that matter. Morris Peterson is another guy I have met in person. The fact I am a Michigan fan and he went to Michigan State would make it hard to love him normally. But he was also a pretty great person and I actually was able to connect with him based on where we both lived. He was from Flint, Michigan and I am from Hamilton. The connection is an event that happens between the 2 cities called the CANUS Games. It is an event where the two cities complete in various sporting events, basketball among them. Moe P is a fan favourite for lots of people and is I believe the longest serving Raptor in terms of games played.
Like I have said I was a Hornets fan prior to the Raptors. So to see Dell Curry and Muggys Bogues play for the Raptors was a personal treat for me. Bogues was just flat out fun to watch play the game. If you ever have met him you could never believe that a guy that small could play in the NBA. He looks like he could be one of the players kids. When it comes to Dell he was just one of the best shooters to ever play the game. Who knew that his son shooting baskets on the Raptors floor would years later be doing it during games starting this season.
Any look back at the Raptors has to give a mention to Charles Oakley. He in a lot of ways made this franchise grow up. His no nonsense approach and his bombastic comments and style was great. Oakley even long after he was gone would be a symbol of toughness that was lacking in future teams. He was not afraid to stand up to anyone from Vince Carter to the league itself. Charles Oakley was his own man and I think that is one of the reasons people respect and love him.
Raptors have had the good fortune to have some quality people covering them over the years as well. John Saunders of ESPN use to call Raptor games and of course Chuck Swirsky. Not to mention the may folks that we have had as guests here. Jack Armstrong, Paul Jones and Eric Smith. Leo Rautins also has been there from the start. I may not be a fan personally but he has been here from the start. You also have Doug Smith who has been on the Raptors beat from day one as well on the print side.
But when they right the story of this franchise be it 10 years from now or 50. Two names will be in that history for sure. Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. They are the 2 multi-time all stars that this franchise has produced. Many people still hate Vince Carter to this day. However there is no way not to mention him when you talk about the history of this team. He was truly amazing in those early days. He did things that people looked at with true amazement. Shaq gave him a nickname of half man and half amazing and he truly was. There was a time when Vinsanity was just that. If he made that 3 pointer in Philly who knows how the story might have changed. He more than anyone before him or after made the Raptors truly relevant to the U.S media.
Bosh on the other hand has grown into the role. He slowly has developed from a rookie will lots of potential to a top player in the league. He was the star player on the first and only Raptors Division Title winning team. It is, as I have said many times, been a pleasure to watch him grow. Looking forward to hopefully the best season ever this year.
That just scratches the surface of my memories of this team. What are your memories of this Raptors Franchise? Share some in the comments, be it a player a game or whatever.