The mid-'90s were a simpler time. The internet was but a diversion for most, not an all-encompassing aspect of life; it was fashionable to wear baggy clothes; Seattle was even considered by some to be the cultural center of the nation. In 1993, a little-known Hollywood artist named Steven Spielberg captured the imagination of the world with a personal film called "Jurassic Park," a tale of scientists creating dinosaurs and the consultants and children who work out their daddy issues when everything goes terribly wrong.
The influence of the film stretched so far as to cover the NBA. When Toronto's expansion team chose its name in 1994, they settled on "Raptors" in part because of the popularity of "Jurassic Park." The idea, I suppose, was that little children would see something they already liked and begin a related fixation with the basketball team.
The Raptors have in fact built a considerable fan base, but it is arguable that a name cribbed from a 20-year-old movie has run its course. With that in mind, new franchise CEO Tim Leiweke has suggested that the organization may consider a change. From Eric Koreen for the National Post (via The Point Forward):
On potentially changing the Raptors’ name: “We’re definitely going to take a look at it. It doesn’t mean we’re committed to it. It means it’s a good conversation. I saw those generic uniforms today in the paper. … That won’t be the uniform, by the way. I can assure you of that. I think we need to have this conversation.”
To be clear, Leiweke does not suggest that a switch is imminent, although an eventual change would certainly be in keeping with recent NBA trends. In the past few months, the New Orleans Hornets have become the Pelicans, which then allowed the Charlotte Bobcats to announce their intention to become the Hornets. There is as yet no indication that the Los Angeles Lakers or Utah Jazz will opt for a more region-appropriate nickname, but there is always a chance.
Yet, for all the sense a Toronto name change would make, the team would still have to pick a winner to make it a sensible move. Luckily, I have picked out five great nicknames to help Toronto grow its NBA brand.
1. Toronto Grown Ups
It has been next to impossible to watch an NBA playoff game this spring without seeing an ad for "Grown Ups 2," the second installment in Adam Sandler's buddy comedy series about childhood friends who act like eight-year-old children. While a basketball team likely won't want to present itself as immature, this image could serve as a built-in excuse for on-court mistakes. After every turnover, players could pants their opponents, throw up their hands, and watch their improbably attractive wives shake their heads in loving disbelief. It's a surefire hit!
2. Toronto Jadens
Along with spots for "Grown-Ups 2," the playoffs have featured a curious match-up of basketball highlights and the trailer for the futuristic action thriller "After Earth." Although the film has not dominate the box office as hoped, it will surely be remembered as the next step forward in the can't-miss career of young star Jaden Smith, whose Hollywood bona fides come directly from his famous genes. With the Jadens name, Toronto's NBA team can broadcast itself as an effective home for the progeny of former basketball players of all stripes. Could NBA kids Kobe Bryant and Al Horford have turned down a pitch from the Jadens in free agency? Of course not. This franchise would reign for willenia!
3. Toronto Illusionists
In the blockbuster hit "Now You See Me," a group of illusionists wow crowds with sleight of hand and stick it to the man by engineering million-dollar bank heists. (When you think about it, the movie accomplishes the same — it's a crowd-pleaser that brings home the box office bucks.) The people who run a basketball team are looking for something similar, with a basketball team that entertains the fans enough to line the pockets of the businessmen who employ them. As an added bonus, perceived theft of the Orlando Magic's brand will surely create a rivalry, adding interests to a Toronto team in need of some buzz. Now that's what I call Hollywood magic!
4. Toronto Secret Service
Yes, I know, Toronto is not in the United States and therefore does not employ our Secret Service. (Fun fact: the prime minister of Canada is an ornery moose protected only by his own sense of survival.) However, with the release of "White House Down" in late June, North America is sure to get Secret Service fever. I mean, there have never been raptor fossils found in Ontario, but that didn't stop anyone from naming the team after the dinosaur. The Raptors can even try to sign Channing Frye to cash in on Channing Tatum's name. Talk about a bankable star!
5. Toronto Quarter-Miles
In "The Fast and the Furious," renegade racer Dom Toretto utters one of the most inspiring mottos in modern cinema: "I live my life a quarter-mile at a time." It's a call to capture the moment, live life to its fullest, and feel the rush. There are few things more apt for the NBA experience, even if Vin Diesel is just a hair taller than Muggsy Bogues. Plus, they'll probably keep making this film series for the next 30 years. Unlike "Jurassic Park," the name will never be outdated.