For many years, being a Toronto basketball fan felt a little bit like being Pinocchio. Only, instead of wanting to be a real boy, you just wanted the Raptors to be a real team. Sure, we believed our squad was real, but at times the rest of the league made us feel like we were lying to ourselves. Entering the NBA in 1995 as its first (and currently only) non-American franchise, the dinos existed in a silo. Between the lack of nationally televised games, the reluctance of stars to play here, and our emotionally abusive relationship with LeBron James, it was hard to shake the perception of Toronto as an illegitimate basketball market.
Well, not anymore. The Raptors are now NBA champions. And though we might still get treated like the asexual wooden marionnettes of the league, a chip is undeniable. That's history made. As legitimizing as it gets.
But you know what else is? Dope-ass rap references about your team. Older heads from Toronto will remember how hype they got upon first hearing Busta Rhymes name-drop Vince Carter in 2000. It felt like being seen. And not just being seen by American culture—that's a rapper admiring a Toronto Raptor enough to immortalize them in a verse, forever recorded in the annals of hip-hop history, for future generations to study. How's that for proof of existence? (Also, Drake is the Raps' No. 1 fan, and that dude will one day be integrated into school curriculums like the motherfuckin' Beatles, so we're good.)
In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Raptors' first championship win (June 13, to be exact), we're highlighting the very greatest bars about Canada's only NBA team. And to toast the franchise's 25th anniversary, we've adjusted our listicle length accordingly. These are the 25 best Toronto Raptors references in rap. They're the real deal.
Big Sean, “Overtime”
Drake, “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”
Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
Slim Jxmmi, “Growed Up”
Drake, “Pain 1993”
Lyric: “When I shoot my shot it’s the Kawhi way, it’s goin’ in”
The second Kawhi’s series-winning buzzer-beater finally dropped, three things became immediately clear: 1) Leonard was the true No. 1 star Raptors fans had been waiting for, 2) Toronto was much more dangerous than NBA pundits gave them credit for, and 3) Drake was going to find a way to work the moment into a song. He’s definitely got better Raptors references, but I’ll take any excuse to watch this clip again. —Rick Mele
Roy Woods, “Like Pascal”
Spillage Village, "End of Daze"
Wiley, “Send Me the Riddim”
Action Bronson, “Only in America”’
Lil Dicky, “Beef”
The Game, “The Code”
Earl Sweatshirt, “Really Doe”
Drake, “Come Winter”
Drake, “Weston Road Flows”
Lyric: “Been flowin’ stupid since Vince Carter/Was on some through-the-legs, arm-in-the-hoop shit”
It’s pretty widely assumed that Drake’s taking a shot at Tory Lanez in “Weston Road Flows,” which he follows up by re-affirming his status as Toronto’s top dog with a shoutout to the greatest dunk contest performance in NBA history. Cue the GIF. (You know the one.) —Rick Mele