Skip to main content

The Toronto Raptors don’t have a long history in the NBA as they entered the league for the 1995-96 season. They made their first NBA Finals in 2019, and they jumped out to a 2-1 series lead on the Golden State Warriors as they chased NBA immortality. But before Toronto could start playing NBA games, it had to pick a nickname, which was easier said than done. What were the other nicknames considered before they settled on Raptors?

Almost a bad choice?

We know and love them as the Toronto Raptors today, but how did the franchise arrive at that nickname? It let the fans decide.

Prospective fans came up with dozens of potential nicknames, and the list got whittled down to 10 finalists. The team’s and league executives eventually picked the name, but the nine other fan favorites don’t have the same ring as Raptors. Here’s the list of names:

  • Beavers
  • Bobcats
  • Dragons
  • Grizzlies
  • Hogs
  • Scorpions
  • T-Rex
  • Tarantulas
  • Terriers

We are sure a few of those names will look familiar to you, as the Bobcats and Grizzlies have been used by the NBA teams in Charlotte and Memphis. Some of the other names on the list just don’t pop out at you as good for the NBA franchise, including Beavers, Hogs, and Terriers. How those names made the top-10, we may never know. That’s what happens when you allow the fans to have a vote in the branding of your franchise.

The Toronto Raptors considered a major change

The first jerseys the Toronto Raptors wore featured a dinosaur front and center.
The old Toronto Raptors jerseys prominently featured a dinosaur on the front. | Carlo Allegri/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013, the Toronto Raptors considered changing their name to one of the other finalists (Bobcats and Dragons) as part of a complete rebranding of the franchise. That was ultimately shot down by public outcry from fans, and it wasn’t a consideration going forward. Instead of a new name, the team settled for updated jerseys that de-emphasized the dinosaur that featured so prominently in the early days of the franchise.

2019 and beyond

After multiple seasons with tough losses in the playoffs to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri went all on in the franchise’s future. He traded all-star DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard.

The Toronto Raptors considered several other nicknames and wore several different jerseys before making the 2019 NBA Finals.
Kawhi Leonard (center) led the Raptors to their first NBA Finals appearance. | Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Leonard might be the best two-way player in the NBA, and he turned into a legitimate MVP-level player this season. The former NBA Finals MVP took over in the playoffs, and he’s enjoying a historic postseason run.

There has been rampant speculation about what Leonard will do this offseason during free agency, and we strongly believe he will resign with the Raptors due to their on-court success (he also purchased a house in Toronto earlier this year).

Our reasoning for that is all down to money. Before leaving San Antonio, Leonard turned down a supermax deal after having problems with the Spurs training staff as he rehabbed from a quad injury. The smart play for Leonard will be to sign a two-year contract with Toronto, then resign for a supermax extension that will be worth more than $200 million thanks to the 10-year veteran max contract that will be available.

Will the Raptors change their name?

It was on the table before, so we have to wonder — will the Toronto Raptors consider changing their name in the future? After seeing some of the other possible names, which one would be the best for Toronto if they decided on a change? We are going to vote for the Dragons, because it can be a play off of the Raptors “King of the North” marketing campaign that resembles the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.