Canada is a country in the north of America and the world’s second-largest country by total area. NBA teams in Canada are fewer than you might think. Canada has only one NBA team: the Toronto Raptors, like we said, there are not many NBA teams in Canada. The Raptors were founded in 1995 and they are based in Toronto, Ontario.
They joined NBA in 1996 after struggling with their league called the National Basketball League of Canada or NBL for short. NBA has NBA G-league teams in many different Canadian cities, but it’s only a minor league.
The NBA G-League in Canada
It has seven teams located across Canada: Raptors905, Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, Delaware 87ers, Erie Bayhawks, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and Wisconsin Herd. The NBA also has NBA Summer League teams in Canadian cities like Toronto, Ontario, and both Montreal & Ottawa, Quebec.
History of Canadian Teams in the NBA
Canadian teams did try to move to the NBA, but only one who was in NBA for a while. The Toronto Huskies were an original NBA team that played from 1946-1947 before moving back to Canada and becoming the Toronto Raptors.
The Vancouver Grizzlies are the other team that comes to mind. competing from 1995 to 2001 before leaving the country once more; they are now known as the Memphis Grizzlies.
The First NBA Game Involved a Canadian Team!
The NBA’s first-ever game was played on November 22nd, 1946 at Maple Leaf Gardens between New York Knicks and Toronto Huskies. Although, as previously mentioned, they only lasted one season due to poor performance (lost all their games). Financial struggles & lack of support from fans led to them moving back into Canada again to become Raptors.
Who Are The Toronto Raptors?
The Toronto Raptors are a Canadian basketball club with their home court in Toronto. The Eastern Conference Atlantic Division of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is where the Raptors play.
They share Scotiabank Arena with the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, where they play their home games (NHL). Together with the Vancouver Grizzlies, the team was established in 1995 as a part of the NBA’s expansion into Canada.
Since the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis, Tennessee, during the 2001–02 season, the Raptors have been the only Canadian-based team in the league. Their biggest rivals are Brooklyn Nets & New York Knicks due to their location between those two cities. However they don’t have any other NBA rivalries right now since all teams from Eastern Conference would be a major match-up.
The Origins of The Raptors
Basketball in Toronto started back up again when the new owner, John Bitove, bought a $125 million expansion fee for the team on February 12th, 1993. The deal still had some fine print though; NBA decided that if Canada wouldn’t get an NBA team within three years then it would be moved out of the country.
After rumors regarding Vancouver Grizzlies moving down south to Memphis, Tennessee before even playing one game there since the Canadian economy wasn’t strong enough at the time. That’s when NBA announced that NBA was expanding for the third time in three years, adding two more teams to the league.
Toronto won over Vancouver with their proposal & NBA granted them the right of getting a new team on April 27th, 1993. Thus becoming Canada’s first NBA Team!
NBA also told Toronto Huskies owners to sell their franchise rights after they moved back into the country, therefore it became Raptors instead.
They have been known as this ever since 1995 when they started playing games in previous Maple Leaf Gardens. Which was replaced by Scotia Bank Arena (where Air Canada Centre is located today). Although due to lack of season ticket sales; the Raptors had played some early regular-season home games in 1996 at the SkyDome (now known as Rogers Centre). Before moving into an NBA arena.
They played their home games out of Scotia Bank Arena for six years until NBA finished building Air Canada Center; which remains to be used today… The Raptors are estimated to make $12 million per season playing there. But they also get a cut from concession sales & parking fees during basketball games!
Golden State Warriors selected Carter with the fifth overall choice in the 1998 NBA Draft. On draft night, he was then exchanged for the fourth-overall pick, Antawn Jamison, by the Toronto Raptors.
The first three years that the Raptors were a franchise were difficult for them. Prior to leading the Raptors to a 47-win season and their first-ever playoff series win in 2001, which helped them advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Carter had a key role in the team’s first-ever playoff trip in 2000.
Carter averaged a career-high 27.6 points per game in 2000-01, his third season, earned the All-NBA Second Team, and was selected as a starter for the 2001 NBA All-Star Game. With a then-franchise record 47 victories, the Raptors finished the regular season.
Carter agreed to a six-year contract extension that could have paid him $94 million in August 2001. He averaged 24.7 points per game while making 60 starts. In a game against the Denver Nuggets on December 7, 2001, Carter finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals.
Since the 1973–74 season, when the league started formally keeping count of thefts, he is just the second player to ever finish a game with 40 points, 15 rebounds, five steals, and five assists. He received massive amounts of votes to play in the 2002 NBA All-Star Game.
Safe to say that Vince Carter is one of the most beloved athletes in Canada and is probably the most famous and iconic NBA player whenever Toronto Raptors comes to minds.
Other Significant Drafts and Trades
Another big change was when Bryan Colangelo joined the Toronto Raptors organization as General Manager & President – who made Andrea Bargnani their first-ever European player drafted with the number one overall pick in 2006.
Demar DeRozan is also a significant NBA player when it comes to Raptors and Canadian fans. He was drafted in 2009, became a slam dunk champion and an all-star numerous times. He also led his team to numerous playoffs appearances but couldn’t get over the hump since they always ran into a team headed by Lebron James. He spent almost a decade of his career as a Raptor before being traded to San Antonio in 2018.
Drake and The Raptors
World-renowned Drake also has a stake in NBA’s Toronto Raptors. Drake joined the team when MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) acquired his rights back in 2013 by making him an international ambassador for all three of their franchises (Raptors, Maple Leafs, and TFC).
This was a dramatic shift because he has been known to support basketball since childhood; even wearing the #15 jersey during NBA Finals games watching Kawhi Leonard play at San Antonio Spurs! They also signed DeMar Derozan to a $40 million deal which made them sign Rudy Gay as well – thus giving fans something to cheer about after they lost Bosh who went on signing with Miami Heat.
Greatest Canadian players and Raptors players
Top 3 Canadian Players
- Steve Nash – One of the most well-known Canadian basketball players of all time, Steve Nash is a two-time MVP and eight-time NBA All-Star. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nash grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, and played college basketball at Santa Clara University. He began his professional career with the Phoenix Suns and later played for the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Nash was known for his incredible ball-handling skills and ability to make precise passes, leading his teams to numerous playoff appearances.
- Andrew Wiggins – Often referred to as “The Maple Jordan,” Wiggins is a current NBA player for the Golden State Warriors and a native of Toronto, Ontario. He played college basketball at the University of Kansas before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers first overall in 2014. Wiggins has played for the Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and currently the Warriors. He is a talented scorer and was a crucial piece to the Warriors’ 2022 NBA Finals run and championship.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – SGA is still very early in his career but his talent is undeniable and in 2022-23 is garnering MVP consideration. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Shai played college basketball at the University of Kentucky before being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2018. He was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, where he spent two seasons before being traded to the Thunder. He has quickly established himself as a promising young player in the league.
Some honorable mentions are:
- Jamal Murray
- RJ Barret
- Tristan Thompson
- Cory Joseph
- Dillon Brooks
Top 3 Raptors Players
- Vince Carter – Vince is the one who put Toronto on the map for the first time with Vinsanity, with the best NBA Dunk Contest there ever was, who had the face for SLAM and SI covers but the game to back it up, and who still leads the franchise in points per game and overall efficiency. Carter could do it all, did it all in Toronto. When he walked, it would be the catalyst for a psychological weight most long-time Raptors fans didn’t shake until the team won the title and for that kind of cruel impact alone, Carter’s career in Toronto was franchise shaping.
- Demar DeRozan – After Vince Carter inspired a whole generation of Canadian basketball fans with his high-flying dunks, DeRozan did it by bringing the Raptors consistent success for the first time in franchise history. He played nine seasons in Toronto, where he developed his game and improved each season, going from a raw athlete to becoming one of the great mid-range artists of his generation, a footwork icon, and a really good playmaker, landing him on four All-Star teams and two All-NBA selections. DeRozan led the Raptors to five consecutive playoff berths between 2013-2018 (where they won at least 48 games each season), and one conference finals appearance. He holds the Raptors all-time records for points (13,296), games (675), minutes played (22,986), and field goals (4,716) and free throws made (10,532).
- Chris Bosh – He was the highest pick the Raptors had in close to a decade and he arrived to a powerhouse of a team that was, nevertheless, an offensive nightmare (not in its own favour). Vince Carter and Bosh would only play Bosh’s rookie season together, but Bosh saw the team’s void for a star and stepped into it at just 20 years old. For the next six seasons Bosh was a powerhouse, averaging between 22-24 points per game and shooting 48 percent or better. Bosh got stuck in the quagmire that followed Carter’s exit and every team the front office attempted to build around their best player didn’t quite work, but he brought the Raptors to two postseason appearances and still leads the franchise in offensive, defensive and total rebounds, and blocks.
Some honorable mentions are very tought because almost every Raptor we’ll be naming are arguably deserving to be a Top 3 Raptor all-time:
- Kyle Lowry
- Kawhi Leonard
- Pascal Siakam
- Fred Van Vleet
- Marc Gasol
In conclusion to our question about “How Many NBA Teams are in Canada?”, it turns out that there is currently one NBA team located in Ontario, Canada – which is NBA’s Toronto Raptors!
We’ve also included the history behind NBA teams in Canada, significant draft picks and trades to name a few. Stay tuned for our next blog posts where we will be talking about everything NBA.