The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

Doug Christie’s Raptors résumé:

  • Seventh all-time in games played
  • Seventh all-time in minutes played
  • Fifth all-time in points
  • Fifth all-time in assists
  • Seventh all-time in rebounds
  • First all-time in steals

Looking at that resume, you could make the case that Doug Christie is the most underrated player on this list. That’s a fair statement, but for some reason I never felt like Doug Christie really resonated as a “fan favorite” in Toronto. I’m sure some of the diehards that read this blog have a Doug Christie jersey, but I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen one unless it was worn by the man himself.

I always liked and respected Doug Christie for two reasons: his versatility and his perimeter defense. While he was best suited as a two guard, he could play the point more than adequately, in a pinch. As for his defense, if you think there was a better perimeter defender in Raptors history, I’m positive I’d disagree with you.

Christie never stood out for me more than he did in the eight games in which he guarded Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls between March 1996 and March 1998. The first time Christie faced the Bulls as a Raptor on March 24, 1996, Toronto handed Chicago one of their 10 losses in their legendary 72-10 season. Sure, Jordan scored 36 points in that game, but the following December, Christie limited Jordan to just 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting as the Raptors won 97-89 at the SkyDome. The Raptors lost the remaining six meetings, but overall Christie matched up with Jordan as well as any other wing player in the league during that period. Compare Jordan’s overall numbers from the 1995-96 to 1997-98 seasons (29.6 PPG, .482 FG%) to his averages against Christie during that period (22.8 PPG, .468 FG%) — that’s as close to “containing M.J.” as you could reasonably hope for, while he was in his prime.

While he made his bones as a smothering man-to-man defender, Christie was also valuable as a help defender on the Raptors. He averaged between 2.3 to 2.5 steals per game in each of the three seasons from 1996-97 to 1998-99, and many of those steals came from his help on double teams. His athleticism and tenacity combined with his high basketball IQ and fast hands to make him a menace in his opponents’ passing lanes.

After his 1996-97 season when he was one of only four NBA players to finish with 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three-pointers (Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Mookie Blaylock were the others), the Raptors rewarded Christie with a seven-year, $22 million contract extension. The Raptors and then-GM Isiah Thomas thought the versatile Christie and the dynamic team leader, Damon Stoudamire, would be Toronto’s backcourt for seasons to come. Stoudamire was traded to Portland the following February, but Christie played three more productive seasons in Toronto — highlighted by his 16.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 SPG performance in 1997-98. Anybody who put up those numbers on this current Raptors squad would be the best player on the team, by a long shot.

I don’t know if Christie’s super-weird relationship with his wife played a factor in his September 2000 trade to the Sacramento Kings for Corliss Williamson. Regardless, he was an important part of some very good Kings teams over the next four-and-a-half seasons. Williamson’s usefulness for the Raptors would prove to be his participation in a trade that occurred later that season and allowed the Raptors to acquire a player who will appear higher up in this list.

After 15 NBA seasons with seven different teams, some fans of that era might reduce Christie’s impact on the league to that of a nomadic journeyman. Make no mistake, when they said, “You can’t stop Michael Jordan, you can only hope to contain him,” Doug Christie was arguably the one guy who could actually lay claim to containing His Airness. For that, and for his impressive rankings in the Raptors’ all-time lists, he’s a more-than-worthy choice to start the countdown of the Top 10 Ultimate Raptors.