During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, as the Raptors finally made their way out of the first round and slogged their way through two seven-game series wins over the Pacers and Heat, it started to dawn on me: As someone who has followed the Raptors since they were an expansion franchise, they were setting all kinds of all-time franchise moments during their playoff push.
Winning their first seven-game series ever? Definitely a top-10 moment. The celebration at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto after advancing to Eastern Conference Finals? Iconic. The list just kept growing. Preempting a Warriors playoff game to TBS because the Raptors were still playing the early game on TNT? Yes, top seven at least. Hubie Brown complimenting DeMar DeRozan’s game on national television for everyone to hear? Top eight. Even the Raptors getting swept by LeBron James and the Cavs in the conference finals (spoiler: it went six) would have been a top-10 moment, anyways.
Like all running jokes, there’s a measure of truth to all of it. The Raptors franchise have been filled with glowing moments that were mostly all too brief (hey, even signing Hedo Turkoglu was once a top-10 moment because a marquee free agent actually chose Toronto). After two decades, you start grasping at straws at all the wonderful moments that come and go, which is partly why it was so hard for a lot of the fanbase to bid farewell to DeRozan, even if the Raptors are potentially adding a top-five player in the league in Kawhi Leonard, even if his health and commitment to this team beyond this season are in question.
DeRozan was part of the core group that gave Raptors fans their first sign of stability, even if the playoff results were disappointing, especially last season’s second round sweep to the Cavs. After thinking about this for several years on and off, here are my own top ten moments in Raptors franchise history, in no particular order.
(A quick note: Many people have suggested LeBron James moving to the Western Conference should be number one, two, and three. While it can be argued that’s the case, for the sake of fairness, it only appears once.)