Raptors NBA Finals: How Long Has Toronto Been in League?

Getty Toronto Raptor Vince Carter protests a foul charged against him after a collision with Charlotte Hornets David Wesley in the first half in Toronto at Air Canada Centre, 24 March, 2000. The Hornets went on to beat the Raptors 102-84.

The Toronto Raptors have been old enough to drink for three years now. The franchise is 24 years old, and is currently in its first-ever NBA Finals against the dynasty of the current era in the Golden State Warriors.

The NBA sought to expand into Canada in the mid-90s, leading to the formation of two teams: the Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. According to the CBC Digital Archives, John Bitove, Jr. became the first president on November 4, 1993.

“We’re going to make the NBA proud. We respect the trust that they’ve charged us with,” says John Bitove, Jr., president of the yet-to-be-named professional basketball franchise in Toronto. NBA commissioner David Stern is on hand to announce the granting of the franchise, as is Jerry Colangelo from the NBA expansion committee. Former premier of Ontario David Peterson is along as well. The price tag for the team is a hefty $125 million US, but Stern notes that in exchange fans will get to see something special. “What we represent is a very high level of family entertainment,” he says in this 1993 TV clip from CBC at Six.

There was little concern that Toronto had the interest and capability to support a franchise, according to NBA.com.

The NBA’s expansion into Toronto was unique for two reasons. First, it marked the league’s first step beyond the borders of the United States. Second, PBF was only one of three viable prospective bid groups in the same city. In previous expansions the NBA had been faced with choosing between competing cities, but never with such a strong internal rivalry for a franchise within a single market. There was little doubt, however, that Toronto wanted and could support an NBA franchise-top-caliber exhibition basketball games had twice drawn more than 25,000 fans to the SkyDome, in 1989 and 1992.

The Raptors won their first game ever in a 94-79 decision over the New Jersey Nets on November 3, 1995. That first season ended with a 21-61 record.

Here are a series of first for the franchise:

  • First points: Alvin Robertson
  • First expansion draft pick: B.J. Armstrong
  • First NBA Draft pick: Damon Stoudemire
  • First winning season: 1999-00 (45-37)
  • First playoff berth: 1999-00 (first round playoff loss to Knicks)
  • First playoff series win: 2000-01 (first round playoff win over Knicks)
  • First NBA Finals: 2018-19 (defeated Milwaukee Bucks in conference finals)