Tuesday is a big day worldwide, with the most anticipated U.S. election in years taking place. North of the border, it’s also a day to reflect on an important sporting anniversary.
For 25 years earlier — Nov. 3, 1995 — the NBA officially arrived in Canada, with the Toronto Raptors taking on the New Jersey Nets at SkyDome.
The Raptors won 94-79, with former all-star Cheap Alvin Robertson Jersey starring with 30 points and future rookie-of-the-year Cheap Damon Stoudamire Jersey turning the negative opinions of fans — who had booed him on draft night — around by notching his first of 86 double-doubles with Toronto.
Sporting white pin-striped jerseys adorned in the front with a large red dinosaur, the Raptors showed more than 33,000 fans what the best professional basketball players in the world could do. Well, kind of. It was a far different era for hoops. The play was more rugged, three-pointers were largely an after-thought (the teams combined for five treys on just 19 attempts), and defence was prioritized and emphasized through the rules of the day. The Nets shot a putrid 33% from the field overall and committed 29 turnovers against only 15 assists.
After Toronto Raptors guard Cheap Kyle Lowry Jersey suffered a sprained left ankle in the first quarter of the team’s Game 4 win over the Brooklyn Nets, questions began to loom surrounding his availability for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics.
MORE: Raptors-Celtics Series Preview | Lowry’s injury diagnosis
According to former Raptors guard and Sportsnet analyst Cheap Alvin Williams Jersey, there is no question – Lowry’s playing.
“I actually talked to Kyle this morning, he was feeling – he didn’t say he was feeling good – but he was like ‘I’m alright,'” Williams said on Sportsnet Monday. “You know Kyle – ‘I’m alright, I’ll be ready to go.'”
“So, that was the biggest thing,” Williams added. “We all know Kyle and how he gets down and his pedigree and that drive and his pain tolerance. All of the things that make him a champion and makes him who he is. I’m 99.9% sure he’ll be ready to play, as he expressed when I talked to him earlier today.”
Williams essentially echoed the sentiment of head coach Nick Nurse, who told reporters after Game 4 that “it’s gonna take something pretty serious to keep him out. You know how tough he is.”
Per the team’s official release, Lowry’s “condition will be updated as appropriate,” meaning we’ll get a better idea of his status for Game 1 once injury reports are made available.
Stick with NBA.com for updates on Lowry’s injury as well as his status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Toronto and Boston open up the second round on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
The Raptors looked far more impressive, with the troubled veteran Robertson turning in what would be his highest-scoring game with the team and Stoudamire showing some of what was to come.
From an unsolicited expansion bid submitted to the NBA by future Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum and his Palestra group in 1992, to a successful bid by a John Bitove-led group a year later, to the reveal of the team name in May 1994 (Raptors beat out fellow finalists Dragons and Bobcats), the Nov. 3 debut had been a long time coming.
The Toronto Huskies had played a single season in 1946 in the Basketball Association of America. The Buffalo Braves had spent some time in town too, and there had been NBA exhibition games held at Maple Leaf Gardens or SkyDome from the 1970s to the 1990s. But these were few and far between, leaving a small, but dedicated faction of basketball diehards with precious little to satisfy their hoop cravings.
That’s what made the arrival of the Raptors — and their ill-fated expansion cousins in Vancouver, who also started off with a Nov. 3 win — so thrilling and eagerly anticipated.
“This place is going to be packed with 30,000 people. A lot of them are not basketball fans,” original Raptors head coach Brendan Malone said on the eve of the game.
“It’s going to be a happening. The NBA back here in Toronto, and they are here so they can tell their children or whatever that they were at the Toronto SkyDome on Nov. 3, 1995, for the Toronto Raptors first game, like I was at the first game ever for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium,” he said.
“I’ll always remember that. It’s something you can always reflect on. You can say, ‘Hey, I was there.’”
The Grizzlies might not have made it, but the Raptors are still here. They have been a huge success story, becoming Canada’s basketball team and the 2019 league champions.