2007: “Toronto as a market won’t ever be New York, L.A., Boston or Miami. Playing in a small market while not being a flashy guy isn’t a kiss of death, but (Chris) Bosh‘s low profile might not resonate with H.O.F. voters if he doesn’t win big (like Reggie Miller) or put up amazing numbers (like Karl Malone and John Stockton).”
2009: “More than LeBron, Wade or any other superstar, Bosh seems most likely to change teams in the much-hyped 2010 offseason. The NBA’s resident self-marketing guru and undercover comedian is just waiting to break out in a bigger market, i.e. New York, Miami or L.A.”
Two times I can remember calling the Raptors a small-market team, and two times I’ve incurred the wrath of the Toronto faithful. The arguments are the same: We’re the 4th-biggest city in North America … We sell out every Raptors game … What other team can say a whole country backs them? … Blah, blah and blah.
It’s time to face up to some truths. As a city, Toronto is not a “small market” by definition. Fine. But the Toronto Raptors are unquestionably a small market franchise within the framework of North American professional sports. (Might as well throw the Blue Jays in there, too.) And you can’t really argue against that.
How many times were the Raptors on ESPN, TNT or ABC last season? Three? Four? That’s probably even going too high. Even when the Raptors are good, like when they were one of the Top-3 teams in the East a couple years back, they have zero TV presence and zero profile this side of the border. In their most recent heyday, Raptors’ playoff games still got the NBA TV junior varsity treatment.
Bosh, the face of the franchise, is a great player and a charming personality and a nice guy. Do you know why he’s nowhere near as popular as Chris Paul or Ray Allen? Because he plays for the Raptors. Bosh has had to become the Black Seth Rogen and basically live on Twitter and uStream just to get some kind of mainstream attention, and he’s still less famous than Tay Zonday. But you know if CB4 played for the Heat or the Rockets with that same personality, he’d be a media force. The sight of kids or grown men outside of Canada rocking Bosh jerseys is rare enough — actually catching somebody in a Jose Calderon or Andrea Bargnani jersey would be like seeing Bigfoot walking down West Broadway.
The closest the Raptors have ever come to being a legit big-market organization was when they had Vince Carter in his prime. Vince was the most exciting player in the world for a time; and even then he could only get the Raps so close. When Vince left, so did the Toronto’s chances of reaching actual “big market” status. And when Bosh is gone next summer to, yes, a bigger market, and Hedo Turkoglu is the focal point of Raps’ marketing, expect that status to drop even more.