You might not know it, but the Toronto Raptors have been keeping professional basketball alive (though at times, barely) in Canada since 1994.
We’re not sure if it was the craziness of Jurassic Park’s 20th anniversary, Drake’s love affair with the team, or the chills we got from the #WeTheNorth commercials, but it really felt like last season brought the Raps to the forefront of sports in Canada.
And they plan to do it again this year. Just check out the front page of NBA.com today if you don’t believe us.
So whether you’re a seasoned vet of the basketball scene or a fence-sitter wondering what all the hype is about, here are 20 reasons (one for every season) to fall in love with your Toronto Raptors.
1. Demar DeRozan was just ranked #35 on ESPN’s top 500 players of the year. Kobe Bryant is #40. Maybe because he does things like this.
2. Drake. He’s been a vocal supporter of the club on the world stage and is responsible for a lot of the hype around the team. Love him or hate him, he’s making things a lot more entertaining around the ACC.
3. Basketball was invented by a Canadian. Basically, if you don’t love the Raptors, you don’t love your country. Fact.
4. They’re hungry. Unlike other teams (with their franchise players and exorbitant salary caps), these guys are working extra hard to be taken seriously. And that makes for some exciting action.
5. Instant gratification. Basketball is probably the only pro sport we can think of where the scores almost always reach at least 80 points, which means you’ll have far more opportunities to get on your feet and celebrate.
7. There’s actually a rivalry to get behind, and it’s with Jay Z. When the Brooklyn Nets ended the Raptors’ dramatic playoff run to end last season, they made themselves an enemy.
9. Masai Ujiri is the first African-born general manager of a North American sports team, and doesn’t take it for granted.
10. Jurassic Park. Canadians love a reason to celebrate in public, and last year’s playoff party outside of the Air Canada Centre was one for the books. Miss it this year and you’re guaranteeing yourself some serious FOMO.
11. Basketball is a global sport and is far more accessible to youth than hockey, football, or other equipment-heavy sports. Growing the Raptors fan-base means growing the sport across Canada, thus creating more opportunities for kids.
12. Dwane Casey road the TTC to Game 7 of last season’s playoff series. He’s a man of the people.
13. Basketball jerseys look way better on regular people than hockey jerseys do. Just sayin’.
14. #WeTheNorth was a brilliant marketing campaign that made us proud to be Canadian without using coffee, beavers, or Sydney Crosby. The slogan lives on this season.
15. Young Canadian talent is taking over the NBA. Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins are only a few of the rising stars being bred by Canadian basketball programs, which means that there’s lots of great amateur basketball to see if you can’t get to a game in Toronto.
16. Raps games are a great date idea. And knowing a bit about the team and the sport itself will make being at the game so much more enjoyable.
18. Not to be a downer, but unlike most Canadian professional sports teams, they’re actually a playoff team. In fact, some experts have said that with a few changes, maybe even a championship contender.
19. They’re “Canada’s Team” – and doesn’t it feel nice not to fight over sports sometimes?
20. Through the ups and downs, they’ve been doing amazing things like this for 20 years. Happy birthday, Raps.
Cover photo and most images from: Toronto Raptors Facebook Page