In 1995, the NBA expanded into Canada, placing the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference and the Vancouver Grizzlies in the West. Before both of those teams finished their sixth season in the league, one team was becoming a household name while the other left the country.
While the Raptors had some brutal seasons to begin their tenure, they did luck into household names like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady while ownership kept investing in their product. Amid laughable cost-cutting and some of the worst records you’ll ever see, Vancouver was broke so quickly that they moved to Memphis in 2001.
Since then, the Raptors have been the league’s lone presence north of the border. Having seen that Toronto is one of the most successful and well-supported teams in the NBA, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said that a second Canadian team might be more successful now, given how the game has grown.
“I really think it would certainly probably work a lot better now just because of the general growth of basketball and the general support the whole country seems to give basketball now,” Nurse said during a Raptors practice in Victoria. If the league expands to 32 teams, could Vancouver get one of those franchises?
Toronto Raptors: Nick Nurse wants a team in Vancouver.
The Grizzlies never won more than 23 games in a season in Vancouver, and that came during their final season when it seemed like everyone knew a move was imminent. It doesn’t matter how passionate your fanbase may be, losing like that will ruin interest in the product.
With the Raptors getting an uncommonly high level of support in Edmonton during their game against the Jazz, Nurse’s claim that love for the game is great in Canada now than it was in the mid-90s holds water. A team run by competent owners would be able to get some of those fans hooked.
Vancouver mayoral candidate Fred Harding is seeking to bring a team back to British Columbia. While Vancouver would, at best, be third on the NBA’s list of top expansion cities behind Las Vegas and Seattle, you can’t fault someone for trying.
Nick Nurse has played a huge part in spreading the Raptors’ gospel across the country, as did names like Carter and the forerunners who made Toronto a presence that had to be taken seriously. The idea of an inter-Canadian rivalry might add some spice to the regular season grind.