Once despised, the Toronto Raptor’s ‘purple dinosaur’ jersey is now the NBA’s favorite throwback

The Toronto Raptors entered the NBA back in 1995-96 season. The expansion franchise came in during a time when NBA jerseys were going through a major design upheaval.

In that inaugural season, the Raptors wore uniforms that were the most-hated jerseys in the league — those now iconic purple throwback Raptors jerseys lasted four seasons before being retired after the 1998-99 seasons.

Prior to the 2014-15 NBA Season, the Raps announced that they would bring back the “dino” jerseys for select games during the franchise’s 20th anniversary campaign. “We are excited to bring back a piece of team history as part of our 20th Anniversary celebration,” Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said at the time. “Our fans have shown affection for the original purple uniform and I think our players will enjoy the chance to wear them next season.”

Popular Toronto Raptors players wearing the purple dinosaur jerseys.

The Purple Dinosaur Jersey

These popular throwbacks famously associated with Vince Carter, Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Marcus Camby not only made a serious comeback, but with the benefit of hindsight, these retro Raptors uniforms are considered one of the best jerseys in NBA history. Yeah, not just a good design, but one of the best ever.

“It looked like Barney at first.” Stoudamire said. “In hindsight, the dinosaur design was ahead of its time.”

When the Canadian franchise first came to be, the purple dinosaur Toronto Raptors jerseys was perhaps the most-divisive uniform in the history of the league. The purple jersey featured a large, red dinosaur slash raptor dribbling a basketball with a white jersey (with an “R” on it) and wearing “claw” sneakers. As if that wasn’t already a bold color choice and a bold design choice, the jerseys also had jagged pinstripes and “Raptors” written in chaotic, stylized silver lettering with a slim black border. Yeah, those Raptors jerseys were extra and they wanted to do the most from the get go..

The goal of the jerseys were to be entirely different than what was done before, timeless and also a uniform that resonated with younger fans. When the original “pretty simple” designs came in with just the Toronto Raptors font on top of their logo with a circled number underneath the design. The team wanted more; they were looking to go “over the top.”

A handful of the designs they came up were really close to what we have today, but with different colorways that included a gold version, a blue-yellow style, and a lime green design (my favorite). Of course, we love those colors now, but knowing where the 1990’s were, they the lime green would have received an even more hate.

Renewed Interest

The interest in the Raptors throwback ‘dino’ jersey was always high. When Yahoo polled dozens of NBA players asking them for the coolest NBA jersey, this purple Raptors throwback received the most votes.

After the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship, it exponentially increased that interest. So much so that Kyle Lowry and Jeremy Lin attended the championship parade in the purple throwbacks with red, black and gray trim, but they had to be customized.

We all owe an apology to the Toronto Raptor’s purple dinosaur jersey.

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