CBC Digital Archives

The Toronto Raptors are born

In 1891 at a YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., a Canadian athletic instructor invented a simple game involving a ball tossed into a peach basket. It would take nearly a century for basketball to gain worldwide prominence and develop its own culture, fashion and vibe. Along the way, Canadians have played a huge role in popularizing the sport, on the street, in gyms and in the professional ranks.

In a league that markets itself as aggressively as a hungry dinosaur, the Toronto Raptors' brass knows it needs to carve out a distinctive brand right away. Step one is the flashy and well-attended unveiling of the new team's logo, which features a red dinosaur on a purple and black background. As illustrated in this 1994 CBC-TV clip from Sunday Report, the idea is to create a kid-friendly brand that will result in a sales bonanza. "We're going to be in five continents [in] over 40 countries starting tomorrow ... No one's ever been able to do it this big before," says Raptors president John Bitove Jr. If the Raptors can improve on the $75 million the league earned in merchandising in Canada in 1993, success is bound to be right around the corner.
• After their successful bid to bring a franchise to Toronto, the group Professional Basketball Franchise (Canada) Inc. (PBF) held a contest to name the team and develop team colours and a logo. After receiving over 2,000 entries they came up with a top 10 list that was dominated by animal names: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs (Toronto's nickname is Hogtown), Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas and Terriers.
  • The Raptors name was evidently fuelled by the enormous success of the movie Jurassic Park (as seen in the clip) the dinosaur-themed film which was released in 1993 and earned over $919 million worldwide, according to imdb.com.

• One of the original team colours was "Naismith silver," in honour of James Naismith, who invented basketball in 1891. The other colours were bright red, purple and black.

• According to nba.com, more than $20 million worth of Raptors gear was purchased in the first month, placing the team seventh in the league in merchandise sales.

Medium: Television
Program: Sunday Report
Broadcast Date: May 15, 1994
Guest(s): John Bitove Jr., Art Good
Reporter: Allen Garr
Duration: 2:32

Last updated: January 30, 2013

Page consulted on October 4, 2013

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