For most of their 20 years of existence, the Toronto Raptors have exemplified mediocrity. They’ve amassed a career winning average of about .400 and have made the NBA playoffs only five times. Perhaps more importantly, the Raptors have never developed anything that might be thought of as a defining character, personality or style.
The Toronto Raptors were only so named because the movie Jurassic Park was a huge hit in 1993 – the year the team emerged from its shell and came into its demoralizing existence. They could have just as easily been called The Schindler’s Listers. Predictably, the Raptors moniker, always a cynical choice, has aged about as well as a tie-in Happy Meal toy.
Now, in 2013, with a new general manager at the helm, the Raptors are contemplating a complete rebranding – possibly coming up with a new name and uniform that will erase the team’s lacklustre legacy. Let us hope they’ve learned something – if only that no one should base an athletic institution on anything to do with Jeff Goldblum.
Maybe, in naming a team, one should look for inspiration to the city that team will represent. Its name should be drawn to the geography and character you expect your players to personify. What follows is a list of potential new names that were discovered in an internal memo from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Raptors:
The Toronto Iron Men
This name would play brilliantly into a popular current cinematic franchise and have the potential to move lots of merchandise in the youth market, as well as suggesting a heroic insouciance that truly personifies the city of Toronto. Logo: The Iron Man Helmet with the CN Tower on the forehead.
The Toronto Real Estate Market
There is probably nothing more representative of Toronto than the obsession of its citizens with the impossibility of buying real estate in the city, and there is no greater symbol of this than the construction cranes that perpetually loom over the skyline like huge, corrosive mortgages. (NB: Team motto could be, “Not in this lifetime!”). Logo: Stick figures of a weeping couple with construction cranes in the background.
Toronto: Ceci n’est pas une pipe
Toronto is now world-famous based on the antics of fun-loving Mayor Rob Ford. His charm has given Toronto an edgy, big-city reputation. Playing off of his denial of smoking a crack pipe in a video, while acknowledging the surreal, Dadaesque character of the mayor’s governance, this name also adds a multilingual, European dash of class. We think that naming the team after this iconic Rene Magritte painting is a “slam dunk” on many different levels! Logo: The Rene Magritte painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”
The Fighting Raccoons of Toronto
Embracing the robust population of raccoons that swarm through the city, this name will brand our franchise as fierce yet cuddly, simultaneously intimidating our opponents and tapping into the Cute Overload community that has typically shied away from basketball. Logo: Glowing eyes on a fire escape.
The Toronto Ikea Monkeys
Who could forget Darwin, the Ikea monkey? Nobody, that’s who. In 2012, the sight of Darwin, dressed in a shearling coat and wandering an Ikea parking lot in Toronto captivated the entire world, and we think the time is right to capitalize on this marketing gift! We could have corporate tie-ins and sponsorship with Ikea (thus promoting the internationalism of our great city), and likely create our own boutique brand of Toronto Monkey furniture in conjunction with the giant corporation. The merchandizing possibilities (imagine a basketball-playing monkey in a movie!) are infinite. It’s almost impossible to imagine anything going wrong with this idea. Logo: The iconic image of Darwin in his Shearling coat.
The Toronto Pride
This name will pay homage to the large LGBT community in Toronto and the world-renowned Gay Pride parade the city hosts every summer. It would also serve to tap into an as yet unexploited market of basketball fans. Remember, basketball superstar Magic Johnson’s son is gay. Logo: A lion with some very subtle glitter in its mane. (NB: Uniforms rainbow colours)
The Toronto Confucianists
This name would be a dignified nod to the incredible ethnic diversity of the great city of Toronto, the vibrant culture that thrives within the Chinatown regions of the GTA and the great philosopher and basketball strategist Confucius. (NB: Remember how Asian basketball star Jeremy Lin ignited the city and how China is an emerging global power!). Logo: A box of Chinese takeout with the words “We Deliver!” on it.
The Toronto Maple Leaves
Serving as a corrective to the atrocious grammar and dismal history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, this rebooted name will benefit from an established brand while still setting our franchise apart as fresh and modern. In addition, we can prove that the curse of the Maple Leafs has been purely grammatical. Logo: A Group of Seven painting depicting maple trees in autumn.
Michael Murray is a Toronto-based writer.