NBA Championships: 0
Last NBA Championship: N/A
Claim to Fame: Vinsanity. Vince Carter won a Slam Dunk competition and earned five All-Star invitations during his time in Toronto.
Claim to Shame: The Raptors were eliminated three straight seasons to LeBron-led teams from 2016-to-2018.
Since entering the league as an expansion franchise in 1995, the Toronto Raptors and their rabid fan base have seen some high highs and some low lows.
As an expansion team, who could forget the Damon Stoudemire and spare parts Dinos upsetting Michael Jordan and the Bulls – in their record-setting 72-win season, no less?
Their trajectory was still rising when, just a few years later, the team made a draft day trade to acquire Vince Carter. The North Carolina product shook the league upon arrival, and with Vinsanity at the helm, the Raptors were on the cusp of something great, just missing a Conference Finals berth in 2001, losing to Philadelphia.
A messy breakup ended that era, but more hope was around the corner in 2003 when the franchise drafted Chris Bosh. While he emerged into a true superstar, he left in 2010 to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, leaving the franchise in shambles.
It wasn’t until this latest iteration, headlined by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, did the team return to prominence and enjoy its greatest years. Last season, they peaked at a franchise-best 59 wins, securing the top seed in the East. However, they were swept in the second round by LeBron and the Cavs – the third straight year their season ended that way.
Sweeping changes occurred. Gone was the winningest coach in history, Dwane Casey, and dealt was the team’s all-time leading scorer DeMar DeRozan for a package that included Kawhi Leonard.
While the team felt the outrage from its fans, it was widely recognized that the 2014 Finals MVP was, if healthy, a massive upgrade over DeRozan, who was a second-team all-NBA player a year ago.
Much depends on Leonard’s health, but with Lowry, and young rising stars Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and OG Anunoby, the Raps are one of a handful of teams favored to come out of the East.