Does anyone else think it’s weirdly awesome Toronto’s National Basketball Association team has a dinosaur as a mascot?
Think about it, Toronto has a dinosaur as a mascot. How the hell did that even happen? Even the Blue Jays don’t make a lot of sense considering the loud, blue avian is the provincial symbol of Prince Edward Island and not Ontario. The Maple Leafs make sense since we have maple trees here in the province, but still: DINOSAURS!
Back in the 90s, there wasn’t a type of animal cooler than a dinosaur. The Toronto Raptors even came on the heels of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that helped bring these lumbering dinos to the forefront of popular culture. Seeing how enamored the entire world was with these mighty lizards, Toronto’s basketball team should make sense, but why does it still feel so ridiculous?
Ronto and the NBA
The Toronto Raptors played their first game in 1995 against the Vancouver Grizzlies, who were created at almost the exact same time. While the Grizzlies are now in Memphis, the Raptors are still here in Toronto, our city where dinosaurs play basketball.
The awesome insanity of our team’s brand still makes me smile.
These two teams were part of the NBA’s expansion into North-North America, but this wasn’t the first time the league had settled down in our fair city. In the 1940s, the NBA helped for the Toronto Huskies, a basket ball team that played for about a year before disbanding.
In the 90s, Torontonians were polled on what they thought would make the best name/logo for our team. Here’s a excerpt from the NBA’s website:
After meeting all of these conditions, PBF could finally get down to the business of creating a team identity. It instituted a nationwide “Name Game” contest to name the team and develop team colors and a logo.
The Name Game became one of the most popular such enterprises in league history, generating more than 2,000 entries. The final top-10 list was dominated by animal names: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs (Toronto’s nickname is Hogtown), Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers.
Wait, so we could have been the Toronto Dragons or the Toronto Tarantulas?! Holy shit those are way better than the raptors! Yet, it isn’t quite part of the 90s zeitgeist.
For anyone scared of spiders, I apologize, but you know why Toronto’s NBA management decided to go against using that name. In the 90s, dinosaurs were exceptionally popular and I am sure among those 2,000 entries a lot of them were kids. What lizards did you think were the best part of Jurassic Park? The Velociraptors.
Velociraptors are the Boba Fetts of reality
According to that NBA article, more than $20 million worth of Toronto Raptors merch was snapped up in the first month. No doubt it was a hit with the youngsters and oldsters who had chosen the name of Toronto’s team, but dinosaurs were a time and place.
Sad as it sounds, dinos just don’t have the same punch with the kids today as they did back then. As someone who grew up right in the middle of the dinosaur insanity that occurred in the 90s, I feel like the Raptors still have the coolest logo in the league. May 16th, 1995, however, was a long time ago.
That being said, Velociraptors are still considered the machine guns of the dinosaur world. They’re fast, they have talons that can scar a child’s imagination forever, and eat whole cows! Like the whole cow including the udder and all of that other stuff humans don’t usually eat.
If you did the same poll today amongst younglings, the results would likely be a lot different and a lot worse than anyone could ever hope or dream. So if the Toronto Raptor’s held a contest for a mass rebranding of the team, what would win?
The Toronto Ponies
Somehow the Internet would find a way to take over the poll and make sure Toronto would suffer. The Toronto Ponies would be a formidable force amongst an undying fan base of young men and women who would be forced by buy sports merchandise. If you think about it, this is the perfect way to really penetrate that market. With real-world branding making up part of your presence on the court, other franchises would literally be struggling to keep up with the way your team is raking in the dough.
However, as with many organization there are rules that stop this sort of thing from happening. According to some forum I was on a few minutes ago – I cleared my browsing history before I could get the link… truck me right – NBA teams all get a share of the profits made from the selling of jerseys, mugs, baseball hats, basketball hats (?), and various adult toys made in the images of its teams. So the Toronto Ponies would have to share some of that sweet nerd cash, which makes the management sad.
The Toronto Trolls
Yeah, I’m not talking about the Trolls that live under bridges or ones that are obscenely nude with long hair. The Trolls I’m talking about are a race of bucket-carrying humanoids from Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures web comic. These little guys along with the exceptionally long web comic series are exceptionally popular. Do you remember those cosplayers walking around wearing grey makeup and with candycorn-looking horns? Yup, Homestuck.
Again, with the Internet being how it is and people ravenously wanting to troll corporations into doing what they want… Trolls would likely be another good candidates for the Raptor’s reworked logo. Unlike some of the other characters in the comic, the trolls have that kind of variety that really attracts the nerdy like moths are attracted to smashing their heads against transparent panes of glass. It provides the reader with a sample to say, “Hey, I’m like that one.” Also, the players have to wear face paint.
The Toronto Werewolves
What’s just as cool as a Velociraptor, but equally as deadly? Werewolves! These humanoid-hybrid-animal-human things come straight from folklore and tales, but they’ve managed to invade popular culture in a number of forms. Remember that terrible movie starring Michael J. Fox where he turns into a werewolf and plays basketball? Back to the Future was one of the most well-known films directed by Robert Zemeckis, and it was second-to-none in boosting the popularity of werewolves.
Wait, there weren’t any werewolves in Back to the Future? Anyway, the 90s were all about the reintroduction of nostalgic folklore into popular culture, and the trend hasn’t stopped. Twilight and Harry Potter both have werewolves that play prominent roles in the books and films, and they’re also a lot more athletic than their jaundiced and bandaged cousins vampires and mummies. Even Anne Rice says they’re more important than their blood-sucking counterparts. Go Toronto Werewolves!
The Toronto [Insert Logo]
There’s nothing more popular than giving people the chance at owning a brand. A big part of the social media-immersed world that we live in today is that feeling of ownership. If they did a poll today about how youngsters would like to see the Raptor’s logo change there would likely be some ridiculously personal requests. This is a reaction to the idea through forums, through Facebook, and through multiples online sources that the fans “own” the teams because they pay the salaries.
[You are the logo]
Having the Toronto Raptors become something equivalent to “The Torontonians” would give people a chance to imprint their own identity onto the team rather than have one forced on them. Yet, who the hell would actually want something like this? The Raptors already give people something to root about and as we all know a big part of our modern society is leisure. People would likely go out of their way of naming the teams on an individual basis, so long the team still plays… and wins once in a while.
The Toronto Loons
Did you know that Ontario’s provincial bird is the common loon? Yes, that sound in the night like a young, female ghost has just cut someone in half is the bird that appears on our province’s banner. Renaming the Toronto Raptors to the Toronto Loons would undoubtedly be a good move as it would ensure we’d instantly become a meme on Reddit.
As you can probably tell, most of those examples above are incredibly ridiculous. What I feel, however, is that Toronto’s basketball team has a somewhat dated mascot for the youth of today. Most of the people who know and love dinosaurs are now in their twenties like me, so the team still has a loyal fan base who love the Raptors look and logo.
Yet, the changing tastes of each decade spawns new interests. Unlike the Vancouver Grizzlies, which has a pretty immutable logo, dinosaurs just don’t have that strong of a bite anymore. They’re still cool as all hell to me, but understandably the hue and cry of the day changes and so to do the logos that inspire kids to by $20 million worth of merchandise.