For Toronto Raptors fans: Fast facts
Fred Jeter | 5/20/2016, 1:48 p.m.
Maybe it’s time for the National Basketball Association to shift its name to the International Basketball Association.
With the slogan “We the North,” the Toronto Raptors have reached the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
Having eliminated the Miami Heat, the NBA’s lone Canadian entry has an Eastern Conference finals date with LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
The winner of that best-of-seven elimination series will advance to the NBA finals against the survivor of the NBA Western Conference final between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For Raptors fans around Richmond, here are some facts for the next playoff party.
In the beginning: The Raptors were a 1995 NBA expansion team, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies of Canada, who have since moved to Memphis.
The old Buffalo Braves — now the Los Angeles Clippers — played some games at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens from 1971 to 1975.
Raptors? Chosen by a vote of the fans, the name was influenced by the science fiction novel “Jurassic Park,” featuring a velociraptor, a flying dinosaur. A raptor is a bird of prey.
Geography lesson: While Cleveland is in Ohio and Toronto is in Ontario, they are practically “backyard rivals.” The cities are just 290 miles apart.
Toronto, population 2.6 million, is the fourth largest city in North America, behind Mexico City, New York City and Los Angeles. Toronto is about 8.5 percent African-American.
Far from home: Emerging as the Raptors’ rim protector is Bismack Biyombo from Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound, 23-year-old Biyombo had 17 points and 16 rebounds in 41 high-energy minutes in Game 7 against the Miami Heat.
Biyombo, who never played collegiately, is one of nine players on NBA rosters from sub-Saharan Africa. There were a total of 101 international players from 36 countries on NBA opening night rosters this year.
Famous fan: While filmmaker Spike Lee is a courtside regular at New York Knicks games, the Raptors’ celebrity spectator is singer-songwriter Drake, a Toronto native who has been billed as the Raptors’ “Global Ambassador.” There is even a “Drake Zone” at Air Canada Centre where fans dress alike.
X’s and O’s: Calling the shots from the sidelines is Dwane Casey, one of just six NBA African-American head coaches.
Casey, who has been Toronto’s coach since 2011, was the star guard for the University of Kentucky’s 1978 NCAA championship team and was assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship team.
Double trouble: Toronto’s 1-2 scoring punch of All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 65 points in the Raptors’ Game 7 win over the Miami Heat.
Lowry, who played at Villanova, and DeRozan, from University of Southern California, averaged a combined 45 points per game for the season.
Part-time heroes: The Raptors claim three Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers, although none are “all their own.”
Center Hakeem Olajuwon played just one season for Toronto after spending his first 17 NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets.
Lenny Wilkens coached in the NBA from 1969 to 2005, but was on the Raptors’ bench from 2000 to 2003.
Wayne Embry, the NBA’s first African-American general manager, ran the show in Milwaukee and Cleveland before coming to Toronto.
Local connection: Former Benedictine High School star Ed Davis was the Raptors’ first-round draft pick in 2010. Davis played with Toronto until 2013, and is now with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Former Virginia Commonwealth University guard and Toronto native Sherman Hamilton serves as media analyst for Sportsnet and NBA TV Canada. Hamilton played on Canada’s 2002 Olympic team.
Black history: The Toronto Blue Jays won baseball’s World Series in 1992 and in 1993 under Cito Gaston, the first African-American manager to win the fall classic.