Remembering some stuff from the Raptors’ first game


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Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the Raptors’ and Grizzlies’ first games

On Nov. 3, 1995, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies both played their inaugural regular-season contests, marking their official entry into the NBA. And both won. Toronto routed the visiting New Jersey Nets 94-79 before Vancouver scored a 92-80 road win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Since the Raptors are the only one of the expansion twins still playing in Canada, let’s look back at what happened in their game and remember a few other interesting things from their debut season a quarter century ago:

It was a different time. Even the most cursory glance at the Raptors’ first box score tells you that. The New Jersey Nets are now the Brooklyn Nets (they moved in 2012) and the point totals hint at the lower-scoring brand of basketball played back then (the average NBA team in 1995-96 scored 99.5 points per game; it was 111.8 this past season). Also, 33,306 fans took in the game at the cavernous SkyDome, which was the Raptors’ home for their first three and a half seasons. The stadium now goes by a different name and basketball is no longer played there (thankfully).

Toronto’s leading scorer that night was Alvin Robertson, who’s also the answer to two other trivia questions. The veteran guard’s 30 points included an early trey that was the first basket in Raptors history. About a decade earlier, while playing for San Antonio, Robertson became the only guard ever to record a quadruple-double in the NBA (he had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals). The other three players with a quadruple-double — Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Nate Thurmond — were all big men who did it with blocks rather than steals in the fourth category. They’re also all in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Robertson is not. He averaged only 9.3 points for the Raptors in 1995-96 and then retired at the age of 33.

After that first game, it was (mostly) downhill for the Raptors. They proceeded to lose their next seven in a row and finished the season 21-61, which was 27th in the 29-team league (they beat out Philadelphia and last-place Vancouver). There were a few bright spots, though. 5-foot-10 point guard Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire won the NBA rookie of the year award after leading Toronto with 19 points and 9.3 assists per game. He also led the Raptors to the first really big win in franchise history with 30 points in a 109-108 home upset of Michael Jordan’s Bulls late in the season. That Chicago team was one of the greatest of all time. It finished 72-10 — setting an NBA record for regular-season wins that stood until Golden State broke it by one in 2015-16 — and went on to win the fourth of six titles in the Jordan era.

Another piece of history was made that first night in Toronto. A Canadian woman named Arlene Olynyk became the NBA’s first female official scorekeeper. She’s the mom of Kelly Olynyk, who was only four years old at the time but grew to nearly seven feet and just completed his seventh season in the NBA with a trip to the Finals with the Miami Heat. Read more about Arlene Olynyk’s experiences as a scorekeeper, including a run-in with Jordan himself, here.

Alvin Robertson guarding some guy on the Bulls. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Quickly…

Chase Claypool now has seven touchdowns in his first seven NFL games. The Canadian rookie receiver caught an eight-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score in Pittsburgh’s big 28-24 win over division-rival Baltimore. The victory upped the Steelers’ record to 7-0, keeping them the only unbeaten team in the league. Claypool, mostly on the strength of his four-touchdown game three weeks ago, now leads all NFL rookies in TDs scored. Pretty impressive considering the strength of this year’s class. Read more about the Steelers’ win and the rest of the Week 8 Sunday slate here.

A CFL player is wanted for attempted murder. Pittsburgh police have issued an arrest warrant for Toronto Argonauts linebacker Jeff Knox Jr., who’s wanted on two counts of attempted homicide and several other charges stemming from an Oct. 23 incident in which two men were shot. Knox was named an all-star for his rookie CFL season in 2015 with Saskatchewan. He played three years with the Roughriders and spent time with Toronto in 2018 and Ottawa in 2019, in addition to a few unsuccessful attempts to catch on with NFL teams. Knox rejoined the Argos in February, but the entire 2020 CFL season was cancelled due to the pandemic. Read more about the warrant for his arrest here.

Kylie Masse won again. Canada’s back-to-back world champion in the women’s 100-metre backstroke continues to show why she should be favoured to capture her first Olympic individual gold medal next summer in Tokyo. She won three events (the 100 backstroke, 50 backstroke and 50 backstroke skins) and finished second in the 200 back in the International Swimming League’s latest round of matches, which wrapped up today in Budapest. Last weekend, Masse, who swims for the Toronto Titans team in the ISL, won the 100 and finished second in the 200 and fourth in the 50. Watch her winning swim in today’s 100m race here and her victory in the 50m skins event here. The next set of ISL matches starts Thursday at 4 a.m. ET and you can stream it live on CBCSports.ca.

Janine Beckie made Canadian soccer history. The substitute forward’s extra-time goal sealed Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Everton in the Women’s FA Cup final yesterday. It also made her the first Canadian player to score in the final of the Women’s FA Cup, a tournament for England’s top women’s soccer clubs that has been around since 1970. Read more about the match and watch Beckie’s goal here.

And finally…

Happy belated anniversary to someone having the good sense to wear a mask even though it felt a little weird. The danger confronting Jacques Plante was even more visceral than the coronavirus. It was hockey pucks flying at his face. After suffering another brutal cut during a game in New York on Nov. 1, 1959, the Montreal Canadiens goalie finally decided he’d had enough. Going against hockey tradition (and the wishes of his coaches), Plante risked public ridicule by returning to the ice wearing the mask he’d been trying out at practice but hadn’t yet brought himself to wear in a game. He promptly went on an 18-game winning streak and masks soon caught on, saving goalies everywhere countless teeth and pints of blood. Read more about Plante’s seemingly obvious but, at the time, quite courageous innovation in this piece from CBC Archives. And if you’re interested in getting more stories from Archives, subscribe to their Flashback newsletter here.

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