Back in 1995, the NBA saw an expansion north of the border. The Toronto Raptors stepped into the league alongside the Vancouver Grizzlies, marking Canada’s re-entry into NBA action after the 1946–47 season of the Toronto Huskies.
Early Struggles and the Vince Carter Era
The initial years were tough. The Raptors anchored the bottom of their division for the first three seasons. Then, the 1998 draft-day trade happened. Vince Carter, soon becoming the face of Toronto basketball, was brought on board. With him, the Raptors touched their playoff ground during 1999-2000.
The subsequent season even saw them pushing through to the conference semifinals, ending in a nail-biting series against the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the glow faded. Carter’s discontentment led to his trade in 2004, pushing Toronto into a rough phase.
Chris Bosh Steps Up
With the arrival of Chris Bosh, the 2006–07 season saw a glimpse of hope. Playoffs were on the cards again, yet success was limited.
Two seasons of playoff action, followed by dwindling performances, marked this era. Bosh’s exit in 2010 further extended the Raptors’ rebuilding timeline.
Resurgence and Heartbreaks
2013-14 was a revelation. From last place, the Raptors rose to secure a division title. Another division victory followed in 2014-15, but the postseason remained a tough nut to crack. With the dynamic duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Toronto celebrated a historic 56-win season in 2015–16 and ventured into the Eastern Conference finals. Though commendable, the journey ended at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hands.
The next seasons mirrored a similar pattern: commendable regular-season performances, culminating in playoff heartbreaks, particularly against the Cavaliers.
The Kawhi Leonard Gamble
In a bid to change their playoff narrative, 2018 saw a bold move. DeRozan, a franchise stalwart, was traded to San Antonio Spurs. The Raptors got Kawhi Leonard in return. The decision, while risky given Leonard’s recent past with the Spurs, soon paid off. Leonard’s synergy with Lowry was evident. Together, they charted a course to the 2018-19 Eastern Conference championship. But the pinnacle was yet to come.
The Raptors faced the formidable Golden State Warriors in the finals. Against all odds, Toronto emerged triumphant in a gripping six-game series, marking their maiden NBA championship win.
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