The Toronto Raptors chose their unique dinosaur-themed nickname after a very strenuous voting process in which 125 media partners put forward 10 names each, which were whittled down to 10 finalists and ultimately voted on by the public.
The Raptors are a bit of an unusual nickname now given the lack of prehistoric monikers across the sports landscape, and it was certainly stunning when the name was unveiled, as Toronto took advantage of Jurassic Park mania by creating one of the game’s most unique visual identities.
The large basketball-playing dinosaur on the front of the jersey, stark combination of purple, black, and silver as the primary colors, and the incredibly 90s lettering made for one of the NBA’s most nostalgic and striking looks. While the Raptors lucked into one of the best aesthetics in the game, they almost messed it up royally by picking one of their inferior names.
The list of potential names included some standouts, but there were more stinkers than quality selections in this group.
Which failed Toronto Raptors nicknames were cool? Which were awful?
Thank the heavens this didn’t win out. What exactly is intimidating about a pig? Toronto has a hard enough time getting free agents anyway, and trying to convince free agents to become “Hogs” almost became a thing. Does Vince Carter winning the Slam Dunk contest for the Toronto Hogs have the same ring to it?
A terrier is a very adorable breed of dog. As a name for a professional sports team, however, it’s not exactly going to strike fear in the hearts of opponents. The Terriers sound more like an American college team in upstate New York than an NBA team hell-bent on winning a championship. Just go with Toronto Huskies if you wanted a dog so badly.
These are some resourceful animals, and they do tie in with the whole Canadian wilderness aspect, but a deadly pack-hunting dinosaur just has a better feel to it from a marketing point of view than a semiaquatic rodent.
The Bobcats name was eventually handed to an NBA franchise in Charlotte, but it was not without controversy. Owner Robert “Bob” Johnson insisted that the “Bob”cats name was installed over “Flight,” which reportedly had been better received. Ultimately, it’s unremarkable, and the Raptors were better leaving that identity for Charlotte.
If it’s good enough for Toronto’s favorite son Drake to name a whole album after, it’s good enough for an NBA team. The coolness factor is off the charts, but Scorpions could’ve failed in Toronto because they’re suited for warmer climates. If this team was located in New Mexico, it would be a match made in heaven.
A giant hairy spider as big as your hand with visible eyes and hair all over? You’ve got us frightened. The name “Spiders” is criminally underutilized across all sports, and the “Toronto Tarantulas” has a nice alliterative sound to it. Solid, even if there were better arthropod alternatives available.
If you had to ask most people to pick a random dinosaur, this is what most would answer. While the king tyrant lizard would’ve made for equally as awesome a logo and jersey, something about “The T-Rex” as a moniker isn’t sitting right with me. “Raptors” was clearly the better Cretaceous-era choice.
The Grizzlies were ultimately put into place, but the westernmost Canadian franchise in Vancouver ended up snapping this moniker up. This identity has the ferocity factor, Canadian tie-in, and sweet uniforms to go with it, but that name became associated with terrible basketball after the franchise’s poor run in Vancouver. At least they’re doing the name proud in Memphis.
You thought the creative team had fun drawing up a visual identity for a dinosaur? Imagine getting free reign over a giant, flying, fire-breathing lizard. No name in sports has more untapped potential, as the Toronto Dragons would’ve been simply badass.
Ultimately, the franchise got it right. Tyrannosaurus might be the dinosaur that has captured modern imagination more than any other, but the speedy Raptors working in tandem to take down their prey seems fitting for how Toronto goes about winning games on the basketball court.