Trying to accurately rank every single player who has ever played for a single Toronto franchise (and even some who didn’t get on the court for a single second) was always going to be a fool’s errand.
Fortunately, our guy Woodley is one such fool. We stand now on the precipice of the top 10 Toronto Raptors of all-time. It’s quite a list, and while there have been a couple of missteps along the way (Yogi in the top 100???), we’ve arrived at the grand conclusion — almost.
As of this writing, we’ve made our way through 208 of 218 names on the list. What follows are the best and brightest of the Raptors franchise, the ten names ranked as the all-time greatest in Toronto.
Here they are, presented in no order (yet):
Now, in looking at that list, some themes emerge. First, it says something about the Raptors franchise (or maybe just Woodley) that Donyell is in this group. Nice guy, hell of a shooter, but woof. It’s also wild to consider T-Mac in this bunch because, well, it’s clear McGrady’s career really took off after he left Toronto. Meanwhile, we shrug seeing Stoudamire on the list — he was the team’s best player in the inaugural season and won the Rookie of the Year as the clear face of the franchise, after all — and yet he too quickly engineered his own removal from Toronto. (Yes, that also had to do with Isiah Thomas and management and other things, but still.)
The point here, I suppose, is that most of the Raptors’ best players have left the team in a weird or overtly negative way, or were elevated way beyond their station had they been with any other team. For the former, Toronto has had ugly divorces from almost all of its All-Stars; for the latter, in guys like Marshall and Davis, we watched them played above their heads for a couple years, and then return back to the role player status from whence they came. In both cases, we built them up, watched them take the team as far as they possibly could, and then were either happy to see them go, or angry they’d ever think or want to leave. It makes for some confused emotions, is where I’m going with this. (This paragraph comes without even mentioning Vince Carter, and now DeMar DeRozan.)
Nevertheless, we need to settle on a ranking! I do not know what Woodley is thinking about right now, but in reflecting on these ten names I’ve been trying to cobble together my own list. (It would include Charley Oakley, but whatever.)
Here’s where I’m at, with a little justification provided for each:
10. Donyell Marshall - Once hit 12 threes in a game!
9. Tracy McGrady - Obviously one of the best pure talents Toronto has ever had — even if we barely got to see it play out in this city.
8. Antonio Davis - Consummate pro, did what he had to do (even if that included trashing the Canadian school system?), mostly played over his head.
7. Jonas Valanciunas - When all is said and done, may end up being one of the all-time signature Raptors — with everything that implies.
6. Damon Stoudamire - An incredibly necessary part of starting the team, and that’s that.
5. Chris Bosh - Very good, and probably underrated. Clearly hit his ceiling in every way while in Toronto.
4. Jose Calderon - The ultimate teammate, the nicest Raptor ever, and a guy who put up with a lot of shit and never complained.
3. Vince Carter - The most talented player Toronto has ever had (until Kawhi?), but the exit really leaves a lot to be desired. It’s hard to overstate that, even with rose-colour glasses welded to my head.
2. DeMar DeRozan - Wanted to be here, loved to be here, played his heart out and became a great player — was just not great enough.
1. Kyle Lowry - This may be a weird pick to some, but really the whole reemergence of Toronto over the past few years has been because of this angry genius and his furious will to win. I love Lowry, even when he’s a pain in the ass (especially when he’s a pain in the ass), or doing something reckless on the court because, damn, the Raptors need that sometimes. Others on this list are more talented, but none truly embody Toronto as well as he has. (Also, I play basketball with that same doomed anger. So there’s that.)
For the Comments:
So that’s it from me, now I want to hear from all of you. Sound off in the comments with your top 10 Raptors from the above list. Maybe someone else you think should be in there didn’t make the cut.
Air it all out below, and then we’ll see Monday who got it right. (Me, I got it right.)