2. November 3, 1995, vs. New Jersey Nets
On November 4, 1993, the NBA announced it awarded an expansion franchise to Toronto. Six months later, the Raptors got their name and Isaiah Thomas came bursting through their new logo.
Finally, after two years of anticipation, 33,306 fans turned out to the SkyDome (now known as the Rogers Centre) for the inaugural game in franchise history. It was also the first NBA regular season contest featuring a Canadian team since the Toronto Huskies played in 1947. The Raps edged out their expansion cousin Vancouver Grizzlies, who premiered a few hours later in Portland.
The night began straight out of another time, with the now-famous team mascot, The Raptor, bursting out of a massive egg that had been carried to the court by a group of loin-clothed “cavemen”.
The Raptors were introduced, with their very first starting lineup comprising Ed Pinckney, Alvin Robertson, Carlos Rogers, Damon Stoudamire, and Zan Tabak.
Robertson hit a three-pointer on the opening possession, scoring the first points in team history, and the Raptors were off to the races.
Toronto outscored the Nets in every quarter en route to a 94-79 win. Robertson had 30 points and seven boards, while Stoudamire (Toronto’s first-ever draft pick) notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 dimes in his NBA debut.
The Toronto Raptors triumphed in their debut.
New Jersey was led by the late Armen Gilliam with 13 points and 16 boards. Future Raptor Chris Childs, who would be key in Toronto’s 2001 playoff run, contributed nine points for the Nets.
While they finished their inaugural season with a 21-61 record (second-worst in the league, ahead of only Vancouver), Toronto was competitive more often than not and treated their fans to 15 wins at home, including an iconic upset of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Stoudamire was the team’s first breakout star, winning the 1996 NBA Rookie of the Year award.