The NBA is an American league, but that doesn’t mean it can only have American teams. The Raptors, based out of Toronto, are a perfect example of that. The team, despite being north of the border, has become one of the most recognized basketball franchises on Earth.
However, getting an international team into the NBA doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, work, and a lot of planning. That is why the Raptors stand out as such a special case.
Why are the Toronto Raptors in the NBA?
Before going any further, it’s first important to understand exactly why the Raptors are in the NBA. The expansion team first came into the league in 1995, and the deal to get them there became final in 1993. Though it took two years to get going, it was worth the effort.
While the NBA could have chosen many teams from many places to expand their range too, getting Toronto was always one of their big goals. Not only was the city relatively close to the United States, but the team had a strong basketball history as well.
In fact, the first team in Toronto where the Huskies hosted the first NBA game ever back in 1946. That would be the last game played in the city until the 1970s (when the Buffalo Braves hosted 16 games there), and the last full season played by a Canadian team until the early ’90s.
Why Did the NBA Expand to Canada?
The NBA has long been in the market to bring different countries into the league. However, getting international teams is not always easy. Not only do you have to worry about franchising, but the logistics of travel can be a pain as well.
The reason the league chose Canada was twofold. First, it’s relatively close to the United States. Though basketball is huge overseas, those places would be almost impossible to travel to and from throughout the course of a season. They needed to go somewhere close.
Toronto, which already had an MLB team in the Bluejays, is right across the border and extremely easy to get to. In fact, it’s much closer for many east coast teams than organizations split out across the United States.
Beyond the ease of travel, Toronto was also extremely appealing to the league because of its rich basketball history. You never want to make a huge investment (such as building a stadium) if you aren’t sure anyone will fill up the seats.
With Toronto, there was no such issue. As mentioned, the city hosted an NBA team right at the start of the league, and the fans had been clamoring for a team even since the early 1980s. In fact, interest only grew and grew throughout that decade into the early ’90s.
While Mexico would also work as a premium, close-by location for the league, it didn’t have the same rich basketball history as Canada. It is that past, combined with the expanded revenue stream, that caused the NBA to finally break into the international market.
How Many Canadian Teams are in the NBA?
Despite Toronto’s eagerness for a team, the league hasn’t had a lot of success breaking into the rest of Canada. In fact, they remain the only NBA team from Canada. However, that’s not for lack of trying.
The NBA tried to branch out to the other coast in 1995, when the Vancouver Grizzlies joined the league. Though they did have some early success, there wasn’t just enough interest in them. After six seasons in Canada, they decided to relocate to Memphis.
When Did the Raptors Join the NBA?
The Raptors officially joined the NBA during the 1995 season. However, negotiations first began in 1993 when the Palestra Group filed to get a team. After a little debate, they got the go-ahead to bring a new franchise north of the border.
Do the Raptors Have Any Canadian Players?
There are currently three Canadian players on the Raptors: Dalano Banton, Khem Birch, and Chris Boucher. Dalano hails from Toronto, while the other two are from Montreal.
It may seem surprising that only three Canadian players are on Canada’s team, but the country only has 25 total players across the entire league. At that rate, getting three on the same team is more impressive than it first seems.
When Did the Toronto Raptors Win the NBA Championship?
Despite being a newer franchise, the Raptors are one of the few NBA teams to have a championship under their belt. The team took home their first ever title during the tumultuous 2019 season thanks to injuries as well as a stellar performance from Kawhi Leonard.
Who Owns the Toronto Raptors?
The Raptors are currently owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The group has had control of the team since 1998, and they show no signs of letting them go.
As a large conglomerate, they own several franchises. That includes the Toronto Maple Leaves, the Argonauts, Toronto FC, and the Marlies. They also have stakes in the NBA G League and the MLS Next Pro league.
Toronto Raptors Quick Team History
- November 4th, 1993: The team gets formalized when the NBA Board of Governors endorses the Expansion Committee’s decision.
- May 15th, 1994: The team gets its name after it’s chosen from a nationwide contest that has more than 2,000 entries.
- 1995: The team plays their first season, where they win just 21 games.
- 1998: Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. purchases the team and drafts rookie Vince Carter.
- 2001: The Raptors win 47 games and make the playoffs. They go on to win their first even playoff series against the Knicks 3 games to 2.
- June 26th, 2003: The Raptors pick Chris Bosh fourth overall.
- 2006: Spurred by Chris Bosh and new roster, the Raptors make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
- 2009: They draft Demar DeRozan 9th overall.
- 2010: The Raptors trade Bosh and go into a full rebuild.
- 2012: The organization trades for Kyle Lowry and ushers in a new era where they would go on to make the playoffs in seven straight seasons.
- 2018: The Raptors trade DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. They also trade three players for Marc Gasol.
- 2019: Spurred by the recent starpower and new acquisitions, the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 4-2 in the NBA Finals to take home their first-ever championship.
- 2020: Kwai Leonard leaves the Raptors to go to the Clippers.
The Raptors are Canada’s only NBA team. That limits the league’s international presence, but it also means they represent an entire country. They are one of the most beloved teams for that reason, and that, combined with the city’s history, show why they remain so popular to this day.
While they only have one ring, and while they have lost some star power in the last year, their journey into the NBA is a fascinating one. It will only continue to get more interesting with each passing season.