The Toronto Raptors have become Canada’s NBA team, representing not just the T-Dot city but the whole of the land in the north. While there are multiple Canadian franchises in the MLS like Toronto FC, CF Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps, and many more in the NHL like the Canadians, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Oilers ,Flames, Senators and Jets, the Raptors are (as are the Blue Jays in MLB), Canada’s sole team in the NBA. Let’s take a look at the players that made them the only option for Canadian basketball fans looking to support a local team on Puntersport.com and help solidify the team as one of the staples of this last over 25 years of NBA.
3 . Kawhi Leonard
At number three we have The Claw himself, Kawhi Leonard. He may not be the one with the most games played, or the top scorer, or lead in any of the usual categories. But you know what he’s got? He ‘s got a ring.
When Masai Ujiri brought Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for DeRozan, he knew he was doing it with just one goal in mind, to be NBA champions. And Kawhi delivered. Supported by a good group of players like the unheralded Pascal Siakam and the strength and resolve of Marc Gasol, Kawhi conquered Toronto hearts in just 357 days. He averaged 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals on that season on way to becoming first non-USA team to win a championship in any of the four major North American leagues since the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. That’s right, Kawhi Leonard ended a 25-year-long drought for Canada-based sports teams. Not bad, not bad at all.
2 . Chris Bosh
We go back in time now, before the Raptors could have even been considered a contenter, to highlight Chris Bosh. The Bosh-led Raptors only ever had two appearances in the playoffs (falling in the first round both times), the number four pick in the historic 2003 draft deserves a mention.
Having spent seven seasons wearing the Raptors jersey, Bosh is the second highest scorer in franchise history as of today, with 10,275 points. He is also the highest rebounder with 4,776 catches and the Raptors player who has made the most blocks with over 600. From 2005 to 2010, he averaged more than 22 points, something that no other player has achieved in the team’s history. Bosh never truly had any support from the rest of the starting lineup, which prevented us from seeing how dominant he could have been on a contending team of his own, and although he left for the Miami Heat in 2010, he remains a big part of Toronto Raptors history.
1 . Vince Carter
The year is 1998 and the Raptors are but a struggling expansion team, fighting to make waves in the Jordan-ruled NBA. Coming into the draft that year, they used their number 5 pick on the draft to get Vince Carter, who had just played three seasons in North Carolina. It was a resounding success. Carter was named that season’s Rookie of the Year and in 1999/00 he would be an All-Star for the first time.
Carter would average 27.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks in his time with the Raptors, but those are just numbers. What Carter was to the Toronto Raptors was a lifeline. He was so good, so spectacular, so must-see-TV that he single handedly kept the Raptors alive. Consider what happened to the Raptors’ sister franchise, the Vancouver Grizzlies. They picked 2nd in that draft, going for Mike Bibby. But Bibby didn’t ignite that team like Carter did with the Raptors. Performances sucked, attendances plummeted, and by the end of the 2001 season the Grizzlies were playing in Memphis. Swap those picks around and it could very well be that Vancouver has a championship banner hanging from their stadium roof. Carter was THAT important.