I think we can all agree that “Toronto Raptors” is kind of a silly name for a professional sporting franchise. It’s not just that the name was clearly influenced by the popularity of “Jurassic Park,” that the raptor’s natural habitat seems to be in the Mongolia and China regions of the globe, or that the mascot is based on a number of anatomical inaccuracies … wait, it’s all of those things. Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler are like, “Really?”
But it’s not just us American expats who have moved to a strange land who think the name is dopey, it’s also NBA players. And they’ve been thinking it since the very first season the team took the court. Here’s an account from Tynan Grierson, who was working for the Raptors on the court during an early game against the Knicks that was meant to honor the very first NBA game ever played. It’s got a lot of terrible language in it because the quotes are coming from Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, so please be warned.
Flash forward to the first season of play for the Toronto Raptors Basketball Club (wince) and I’m now working for the team. I’m sandwiched between behemoths Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, leaning heavily on my shirt, tie and hands-free headset to convey an authority I obviously lack. I crane my head skyward to cue Ewing into place and lose track of the 98 year-old Jewish man (not much more than 5 foot 7 from hunch-to-toe) struggling to shuffle alongside stride-for-stride.
All part of a pre-game ceremony to commemorate the first ever NBA game, played in Toronto 50 years prior. Surviving members of the 1946 New York Knickerbockers and Toronto Huskies were paired with their current counterparts; much the way Premier League soccer marches players onto the pitch hand-in-hand with children to symbolize playing a kid’s game, albeit on a grand stage. I gesture to Charles Oakley that he’s free to move to center court and he restrains himself from driving me into the floor like a railroad spike, tightening his giant fist and dragging his own frail franchise forefather in-tow.
All the while, Oakley can’t stop himself barking profanities at the Raptor players across the floor; “Those jerseys come with cum stains on ‘em? Cause they’re the gayest f—in’ things I’ve ever seen.” This in contrast to Anthony Mason’s muttering; “Dinosaurs, brotha? If I was you, I’d f—in’ kill myself.”
Of course, Oakley would go on to wear the Raptors purple and red while Mason would sport teal pinstriped jerseys during his time with the Hornets. What goes around comes around.
That being said, I’m not going to be the one to tell these guys they both looked silly later on in their careers. You can if you want, but I value my life.