Photo Credit: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Sports have always been about numbers – statistics, games, records, championships and other measurables.
But the digits on the back of a jersey carry a different meaning than other numbers. You probably won’t remember how many games your favourite athlete has played or how many points they’ve scored, but you do remember that jersey.
What do you think of when you see or hear the number 23? Michael Jordan.
How about 99? Wayne Gretzky.
That number 12? Tom Brady.
Jersey numbers have become icons and conjure a certain image or brand. Generations of young athletes have tried to attach themselves to each of the most memorable ones.
Because of how popular jersey numbers have become in sport, I wanted to make a list of the best Toronto Raptors at each number from 00 to 95.
Here are the best Raptors from double zeros to 10.
#00: Eric Montross
There wasn’t much to choose from with just Eric Montross and Chris Garner being the only Toronto Raptors to don the double zeros.
Both players didn’t have memorable careers in the 6ix but Montross’ stats were slightly better over his two-year tenure with the Raptors compared to Garner’s sole season in Toronto.
Montross averaged 2.1 points with 39.6 per cent field goal accuracy as a center from 2000 to 2002 while Garner, a guard, could only muster up an average of 1.4 points with 32.9 per cent field goal accuracy during the 1997-98 NBA season.
I promise you, the list does get better from here.
#0: C.J. Miles
The Toronto era of C.J. Miles’ NBA career wasn’t his best compared to his performances on other teams, but he is considerably better than other Raptors – Marco Belinelli, James Johnson, Jared Sullinger and Terence Davis – who have worn the goose egg.
Miles averaged 8.3 points over his two-year career in Toronto that spanned from his signing as a free-agent in 2017 to being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018-19 season.
That’s right. Miles, along with Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and a second round pick sent to Memphis in exchange for Marc Gasol, missed out on the Raptors first NBA championship in franchise history.
#1: Tracy McGrady
Jersey number one has been worn by 14 different Raptors since the franchise’s inception, only matched by number three with the same number of players.
Tracy McGrady is an easy pick for the not-so loneliest number with Chris Childs as his only real competition from the other 13 Raptors.
Over his three seasons in Toronto, McGrady averaged 11.1 points and drained 44.8 per cent of his field goals. He increased his points per game from seven in his rookie year in 1997-98 to 15.4 in his third and final season as a Raptor.
It wasn’t until he arrived in Orlando where he became a true All-Star, scoring 28.1 points per game as part of the Magic for four years.
#2: Kawhi Leonard
Finally, a name Gen Z Raptors fans will actually recognize.
Oliver Miller and James Johnson both had decent years in Toronto but it’s widely agreed that Kawhi Leonard was at the forefront of the Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship run. “The Shot” that sent Toronto to the Finals and the Philadelphia 76ers to the golf course is still being talked about as one of, if not, the most clutch shot in Raptors history.
KLAW’s tenure in Toronto was short and sweet, but he will go down as one of the best Raptors of all-time.
#3: OG Anunoby
Some people forget that Kyle Lowry once wore the number three on his back, but only in his first year in Toronto, where he scored 11.6 points per game. Since then, OG Anunoby is the undisputed best Raptor who has worn the jersey number.
Anunoby has earned double-digit point averages over the last two seasons and has increased his numbers each year. This past season was his best yet, scoring 15.9 points per game and a 48 per cent field goal percentage.
Anunoby has cemented his role in the starting lineup over the last year and will be a major part of their rebuilding effort.
#4: Chris Bosh
Number four who went number four.
Ever since the Raptors selected Chris Bosh with the fourth overall pick in 2003, the now-retired big man never dropped below a double-digit scoring average. His worst statistical year was his rookie season in Toronto when he averaged 11.5 points.
Bosh peaked at 24 points per game in his final year with the Raptors.
Even after taking his talents to South Beach to play with two of four members of the Banana Boat Crew and the rest of the Miami Heat for the back nine of his career, Bosh maintained great numbers, never dipping below 16 points per game.
#5: Jalen Rose
Aside from his time with the Chicago Bulls, Jalen Rose had some of his best statistical years in Toronto.
Rose averaged 16.2 points in three seasons as a Raptor, which is second to his 21.4 points per game while he was a Bull for three seasons. Even his six years with the Indiana Pacers weren’t as fruitful as his years in Toronto.
DeMarre Carrol is another number five who comes to mind, but his two-year stint in Toronto was less than spectacular.
#6: Jermaine O’Neal
I already know I’m going to get flack for not picking the number six from the 6ix, Cory Joseph.
In my defence, Jermaine O’Neal, who played center in his one season in Toronto, averaged more points – 13.5 compared to 8.9 – and was a better shooter – 47.3 per cent compared to 44.6 per cent – than Joseph, a guard, in two seasons.
I won’t go any further because I already know I’ve painted a target on my back with this move.
#7: Kyle Lowry
The greatest Raptor of all-time wears the holy number seven.
As I mentioned, Lowry first wore number 3 in his first year in Toronto but eventually made the switch when the former number 7, Andrea Bargnani, went to the New York Knicks after the 2012-13 season. Since then, Lowry has averaged 18.3 points and earned six consecutive NBA All-Star nods.
Lowry has been Toronto’s commanding officer since most Raptors fans can remember. No matter what happens this off-season, number 7 will always be number one in Toronto.
#8: Jose Calderon
Another easy decision with just Bismack Biyombo – also known as BB-8 – sitting in as an honourary mention.
In his eight years with the Raptors, Jose Calderon averaged 10 points per game with 48.1 per cent field goal accuracy. Despite leaving Toronto after the 2012-13 NBA season, he still holds the franchise record for highest free throw percentage in both a single season and a career with a single team.
#9: Serge Ibaka
Although the number has seen 10 Raptors wear it, there aren’t too many recognizable names under the number nine column. Serge Ibaka immediately stands out as the best of the bunch.
Ibaka scored 14.2 points per game during his four seasons in Toronto and at least 15 in his last two – one of which he helped the Raptors to the 2019 NBA Championship.
The scrappy big man was also lethal in the 2019 playoffs. When Ibaka scored at least double digit points, Toronto won nine of 10 games.
#10: DeMar DeRozan
We’re the first part of this series on a great note – DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan’s crushing departure via a trade that sent him to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for the one-year wonder, Kawhi Leonard, was felt around the country. The Lowry-DeRozan era came to an end and many players, including Fred VanVleet, were upset when they heard the transaction was complete.
Though Toronto was able to earn a championship ring without DeRozan, he did set the foundation for what happened during the 2018-19 Raptors season.
In his nine seasons in Toronto, DeRozan was just shy of 20 points per game as he finished his career as a Raptor averaging 19.7 points. His best season was in 2017-18 when he averaged 27.3 points and has yet to drop below 21 since then.
DeRozan also holds 10 different franchise records including points (13,296), games played (675), minutes played (22,986), field goals (4,716), field goal attempts (10,532), two-point field goals (4,391), two-point field goal attempts (9,404), field goals missed (5,816), free throws (3,539) and free throw attempts (4,277). His two single-season records are free throws (555) and free throw attempts (653).