10 Toronto Raptors who turned their back on the franchise

Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Toronto Raptors
Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Toronto Raptors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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No. 7: Isiah Thomas

The Toronto Raptors never had to face Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons; they came around after that era of basketball was over. They never had to see their beloved players clotheslined, grabbed, punched or tossed to the floor. The Pistons had a well-earned reputation and it ultimately brought them two NBA Championships and one of the most iconic names of any team in basketball history.

The floor general and best player on those teams was Isiah Thomas, and the point guard didn't end his connection with the NBA when an Achilles injury ended his career. In his retirement speech in May of 1994, he simultaneously announced the end of his playing career and the start of his front office career as the new Executive Vice President of the expansion Toronto Raptors franchise.

Thomas was essentially the "star" of the Raptors when they launched a year later before they could build an on-court identity of their own. Thomas proved himself a savvy evaluator of talent, especially in the draft, and under his oversight the Raptors drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby and Tracy McGrady in consecutive years.

Then in 1997, Thomas made a push to gain a controlling ownership stake of the Raptors, seeking to build on his fame and success by becoming one of the NBA's governors. His move didn't work, and it immediately soured his relationship with the team's other owners. Just a few months later Thomas would leave the team, setting off a chain reaction of events. The Raptors had an abysmal season, star guard Stoudamire clashed with the team until he was dealt to Portland, and GM Glen Grunwald became the lead decision-maker and didn't handle his tenure well (more on that momentarily).

Thomas was exactly what the team needed to begin its life, a famous face to draw interest and a keen player evaluator. Yet whether he received bad advice or it was always in his nature to grab for more and more power (his history since suggests the latter) his emotional, complicated and violent departure from the team sent the franchise into a tailspin just when things were looking up.