The Toronto Raptors are tired of being overlooked. They want to be respected on and off the court. Sure, part of the reason they don't get respected is their constant inability to make the playoffs, but it also has to do with being the only team outside the United States. The Raptors are ready to shed the negative image associated with them and move upward.
Now entering their 19th season as an NBA franchise, the Raptors have only made the playoffs five times and haven't been in since the 2007-2008 season. The organization is done with mediocrity and has now shifted its focus on becoming great.
On May 31, 2013, the Raptors announced that Masai Ujiri would become their new General Manager. Ujiri, who spent the early stages of his career with the Raptors, was named the 2012-2013 Executive of the year for the Denver Nuggets. Ujiri has a scouting background and really seems to have a knack for finding the right players for his team.
On June 30, 2013, Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment (MLSE) named Tim Leiweke their new President and CEO. With this move, Leiweke would assume responsibility over the Raptors, Maple Leafs, and the Toronto FC. Prior to joining MLSE, Leiweke was the President and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy and part of the Los Angeles Lakers. Leiweke was very successful during his time in Los Angeles and made the Lakers and Kings two of the most powerful and accomplished teams in their respected sports.
By bringing both of these men in, the Raptors showed that they are serious in their efforts of putting together a contending team. Their names alone – Leiweke and Ujiri- will attract players to the Raptors based on their previous success. Just when you thought the Raptors couldn't add another big name to their organization, they go out and get one of the biggest names in entertainment – Drake.
Drake is a rapper from Toronto. He is one of the most recognized and successful musicians worldwide. He tours numerous cities and Countries and he has a huge following. Drake is also friends with several NBA players, including LeBron James and Kevin Durant. On September 30, 2013, the Raptors announced that Drake has become their 'global ambassador'. Drake will work with members of the organization in efforts of rebranding and redesigning the Raptors image and colours. Having been all around the world and experienced many different cultures, Drake's influence is sure to help the Raptors going forward.
The same day they said Drake would be their 'global ambassador', the Raptors had an even bigger announcement. With NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and others in attendance, the Raptors announced that they will host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. This will be the first NBA All-Star Game held outside of the United States and it's only fitting that it's played in the city that formed the NBA's first team outside the United States. Having the All-Star Game in Toronto will expose everyone to the city's wonderful culture, nightlife, restaurants and activity.
The Raptors now have two years to develop a respectable team on the court. If the Raptors can put together a playoff team before they host the All-Star Game in 2016, there will be a ridiculous amount of buzz surrounding the city and the team. Nonetheless, this is a great step forward for the Raptors and it will give some players an idea of what it is like to be in Toronto for a few days.
For years Raptors fans have been disappointed, but for some reason this offseason has a different feel to it. In the few months that Leiweke and Ujiri have been here, they finalized the deal for Toronto to host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, they added rapper Drake as a 'global ambassador', and they have brought back hope to the city of Toronto. The Raptors have a good core of young players and are only a few pieces away from being a serious contender. Let's hope that we can look back 10 years from now and say that 2013 was the year the Raptors franchise turned around. That 2013 was a new beginning for the Raptors and the team finally gained respect around the league. The future looks bright in Toronto, but only time will tell.
Go Raptors Go!
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