Behind the Name: Toronto Fans Help NBA Squad Find its Identity

( - A little known fact to most fans of the NBA is that the first game of the league's primary incarnation - the Basketball Association of America - was played at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto when the New York Knickerbockers defeated the Toronto Huskies 68-66.

That game took place way back on November 1, 1946 and it would be the only season opener the Huskies would host. The ill-fated Toronto franchise folded at the end of the 1946-47 season and an NBA franchise wouldn't return to Canada for nearly 50 years.

The current franchise traces its roots back to April 23, 1993, when the NBA announced that it had received a formal application from Professional Basketball Franchise (Canada) Inc. (PBF). Three groups bid for the rights to become the owner of the newest NBA franchise.

The NBA expansion committee recommended on September 30, 1993, that PBF be conditionally awarded a franchise for the 1995-96 season and become the 28th team in the league.

Now that Toronto was awarded a franchise, a nationwide "Name Game" contest to name the team would follow as the franchise felt that turning to the fans to help develop an identity was the ideal course to take.

The name game became one of the most popular in league history, generating more than 2,000 different entries. The final top -10 list was dominated by animal names. The list included, Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs (Toronto's nickname is Hogtown), Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers.

On May 15, the team's new moniker, the Toronto Raptors, was unveiled on national television. The franchise's logo featured an aggressive, sharp-toothed dinosaur dribbling a basketball. The team colours were to be bright red, purple, black, and "Naismith silver" - in honour of Canadian James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball in 1891.

More than $20 million in Raptors gear was snapped up in the first month after its unveiling. By the end of 1994 the logo was hot in the marketplace, and the Raptors, still a long way from their first game, were seventh in the league in merchandise sales.