While most people were recovering from watching the Super Bowl, Toronto Raptors fans were too busy celebrating another red-hot win from Canada’s only NBA team. This past weekend, the Raptors were fresh off a six-game winning streak after nixing the Washington Wizards 120-116 on Saturday night.
The Toronto Raptors embarked on their 20th season in the league this year, marking two decades of professional basketball in Canada.
Vancouver was previously home to an NBA team as well, with both the Raptors and Grizzlies debuting at the same time in 1995 as the NBA attempted an expansion into Canada.
Eventually the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis after the 2000-01 season.
It’s been easy to make fun of the Raptors over the years, but there have been some incredible moments in the franchise’s history like Vince Carter’s slam-dunk contest win and scoring 50 points in a playoff game, the 2006 Atlantic Division title win with Chris Bosh and becoming the talk of the league last year after smashing the Brooklyn Nets before playoffs.
The Raptors have a real history and a growing — and young— fan base. In the early stages of the team’s time in Toronto, to make it two decades in the city seemed like an impossibility. In Vancouver, they never even got close to the two decade mark, but the potential for a NBA franchise returning to Vancouver has never left some minds.
When the Raptors took the court last October in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena to face the Sacramento Kings in a pre-season showcase game, it was evident there’s still a market for a return of the NBA in Vancouver.
A sold-out crowd of 19,000 greeted the team with passion and support, showing that Vancouver really does deserve a franchise they can call their own.
Much like last season, this year the Raptors have been sitting in second in the eastern conference.
Only the Atlanta Hawks remain ahead with 40 wins and a 19 game winning streak.
The 2013-14 season marked the return of the Raptors as major contenders in the league.
After a significant trade, the Raps went on a 10-2 run record, maintaining their division lead and finished the season with a 48-34 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the fist time since 2008.
The Raptors were eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in an intense seven game first round series, but that didn’t really faze Raptor Nation.
Fan favourite DeMar DeRozan was selected for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game as a reserve guard for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
He finished the game with eight points, three rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.
DeRozan was the fourth Raptor ever to be selected to an all-star team in the history of the franchise, sitting among Carter and Bosh with the honour.
And now the Raptors can add another notch in their belt with bulldog point guard Kyle Lowry voted in to the Eastern Conference starting lineup for this month’s all-star game in New York.
A wide-range of fans took to Twitter to solicit support for Lowry, who will join Cleveland’s LeBron James and New York’s Carmelo Anthony as an Eastern Conference starter.
Lowry made up about a 100,000 vote difference to pass Miami’s Dwyane Wade for a starting spot, making him only the third Raptor in history to be voted in to the all-stars by fans.
So the question remains that even with a growing fan-base, all-star appointments and securing playoff berths, why are the Raptors not embraced with love in Canada, and in particular in Alberta?
It remains a puzzle how some fans are able to stick by certain NHL teams through long-lasting losing streaks and are still willing to watch the NHL playoffs when barely any Canadian teams even make it past the first round.
It’s time to get behind a team that actually wins. So if that heavy hockey jersey seems to be weighing you down, feel free to come join the Raptor nation.