While everyone eagerly anticipates tonight’s Nets’ opener (against your very own Toronto Raptors) in Brooklyn, it’s easy to forget that 17 years ago today, it was the Raptors who played the franchise’s first ever regular season game at Skydome, against the Nets of all teams.

How’s that for a coincidence?

To summarize, The Raptor hatched out of a goddamn giant dinosaur egg in the middle of the court. Most intimidating opening ever.

Another thing I think a lot of Raptors fans forget is just how good of a coach Brendan Malone was in that inaugural season. Sure, the team only won 21 games and Damon Stoudamire’s Rookie of the Year performance had a lot to do with many of those wins, but look at that YMCA lineup Toronto was trotting out. Not many coaches would have scrapped out 15 wins with that sad sack of a roster, let alone surpass 20.

17 years later, as we enter this 18th season in franchise history, us Raptors fans haven’t had much to cheer about for more than two or three years at a time, and we’ve often been the butt end of NBA jokes. But make no mistake, we are among the most passionate fans in the NBA, and those who truly know basketball and the NBA game are well aware of it. Basketball Prospectus came up with a metric to measure fan loyalty in NBA markets, termed the “Loyalty Factor,” where Raptors fans ranked fourth, behind only Mavericks fans, Bulls fans and Knicks fans.

We haven’t had much luck, much loyalty from our star players or much well reasoned management in the near two-decade history of this franchise, but our time will come.

For the love of God, it has to…