On November 3, 1995, the Raptors made their NBA debut.

Founded on September 30, 1993, the Raptors had to wait over two years before making their NBA debut in the 1995/96 fiscal year. Forty-nine years later, Canada – and more specifically the city of Toronto – has once again welcomed a Great League franchise to its territory.

The anomaly is thus fixed for this country, with a particular attachment to basketball. Because in addition to being the land of origin of the inventor of this sport – Dr. James Naismith – and having a leading role in the creation of the BAA (ancestor of the NBA), this is also where the very first BAA match in history took place.

At that time, the meeting between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knicks actually took place in Ontario. On November 1, 1946, more than 7,000 people gathered at Maple Leafs Garden to witness this historic poster, which saw the New Yorkers narrowly win (68-66).

Since the 1946/47 season, at the end of which the leaders of the Huskies finally put the key under the door (lack of interest in the franchise and therefore the profitability), Canada has been removed from American professional basketball. Until that famous night in November 1995.

Celebrate Canada

Canadian fans were further spoiled that night as not one but two teams from the “nation of the maple leaf” rolled out on November 3rd. In addition to the Toronto Raptors, the Vancouver Grizzlies are also taking their first steps in the NBA (victory with the Blazers). If the city of Vancouver doesn’t have a franchise today, Toronto is lucky to be celebrating the 27th anniversary of its official start.

And for their inaugural match, the Raptors faced the Nets at the SkyDome, this multi-sports arena with a maximum capacity of 50,000 seats! For the occasion, only 33,306 people came to watch this rivalry, which was not the most attractive of all, on paper.

At the time, while the New Jersey franchise, orphaned by Derrick Coleman and now led by the Kenny Anderson – Armen Gilliam duo, was mediocre, Toronto relied on a diverse workforce and lacked collective experience, with lead rookie Damon Stoudamire.

However, unlike their opponents, Canadians can count on this extra soul that carries the weight of history.

An unforgettable opening night

Damon Stoudamire, Alvin Robertson, Ed Pinckney, Carlos Rogers and Zan Tabak are the first starting five of the Raptors. In an electric environment, they can also quickly control this part, never letting go.

Led by Alvin Robertson, Brendan Malone’s (Michael’s father…) men led after the quarter (21-17). Then they would gradually grow their lead, to return to the locker room by being ahead by 13 points (46-33). In control, Toronto would not let up in the second half and would eventually win by a score of 94 to 79.

Returning to the floor after two and a half years of absence, due to a back injury, Alvin Robertson shone a thousand lights that night. The 1986 Defender of the Year, who will retire at the end of the 1995/96 season, finished this meeting with 30 points (11/14 on shots), 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals! As for Damon Stoudamire, he did a double-double (10 points, 10 assists) for his NBA debut.

Unable to stop the Canadian surge, the Nets lost this opening game in a landslide, allowing an entire franchise to begin its Great League adventure in the best possible way.

A clearing in the Canadian fog

However, this victory of the Raptors will unfortunately not herald an exercise synonymous with victory for them. They would actually finish it off with a sad (but logical) record of 21 wins and 61 losses, tied for 14th place in the Eastern Conference. However, they will comfort themselves with the third-best attendance in the NBA (23,178 average viewers), behind only the Hornets and the Bulls.

During its inaugural campaign, however, Toronto would stand out as one of nine (the Pacers did it twice) teams to beat Chicago in March 1996. At that time, the players of Illinois is on its way to a record season: 72 wins and 10 losses!

Other (rare) good news on the Canadian landscape: Damon Stoudamire’s Rookie of the Year trophy. Author of 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game, the 7th choice of the 1995 Draft was destined to be the one to carry the franchise from Ontario to the playoffs. He would not succeed, however, as the Raptors finally had to wait for the arrival of Vince Carter in 1998 to definitively launch their ascent.

The article was originally published in 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *