Logic states that there's probably at least a couple of fans who have only followed the Toronto Raptors over the past few seasons. These bandwagon hoppers would, then, be blissfully oblivious to much of the tortured history that plagued the club before they set out on four consecutive playoff appearances, all of which have begun with home court advantage. For more seasoned Raptor fans, a recent spate of negative headlines surrounding the club stemming from a crushing playoff sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers and promises of a "culture reset" by team president Masai Ujiri might seem only painfully familiar.
Even with the recent string of successful campaigns under head coach Dwane Casey, the Raptors as a franchise have accumulated 13 losing seasons, next to just eight winning ones. That points to a club that, despite what recency bias may suggest, has been bad for a whole lot more of its history than good. And just as the likes of Casey, Ujiri and players like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have served as the face of the recent good times, those losing seasons were embodied by the executives, coaches and players that had the misfortune of overseeing the wreckage during their time with the club. But while a Hall of Shame for Raptor executives and coaches - Isiah Thomas, Rob Babcock, Bryan Colangelo, Butch Carter and Kevin O'Neill - is mercifully short, the list of players whose names bring back painful memories for Raptor fans is a considerably longer one.
In 22 short years, there have been plenty instances of big hype and underwhelming results, not to mention ugly divorces, wasted money and players who just plain didn't want to be in "the Six". While some of these players built up their enmity while still donning a Raptors jersey, others saw Raptor fan angst against them blossom out of the less than amiable circumstances surrounding their exit. It might serve a guy like Lowry, a pending free agent who has already been attached to whispers about wanting out of Toronto, well to see how quickly the tide could turn for a perennial fan favorite if he doesn't return the love shown by the Raptor faithful. After all, you are either a part of "We The North" or you aren't.
15 Antonio Davis
If you happen to know any Raptor fans spooked by recent rumors about Kyle Lowry not wanting to live in Toronto, you probably don't want to tip them off to the fact that there is a precedent for a player wanting out despite experiencing on-court success with the Raptors. The 1999 trade that brought Antonio Davis to Toronto also coincided with the franchise's first taste of playoff basketball, reaching the postseason in each of his first three seasons with the team. But a trio of consecutive playoff trips and his lone career All-Star appearance weren't enough to keep Davis happy in Toronto.
It's hard to see where things went sour for Davis with the Raptors. In being traded, he went from being a role-playing reserve with the Indiana Pacers to being a key cog next to emerging superstar Vince Carter. He even re-signed with the club in 2001 after two years of cementing himself as a fan favorite. By the time he was dealt to Chicago late in 2013, however, things had come undone. The Raps were no longer a perennial playoff contender and reports suggested that Davis and his wife did not want their kids attending Canadian schools and learning the metric system. An awkward reunion in 2006 lasted all of eight games and did little to dampen the ill will that had developed between Davis and the team's fan base.
14 John Salmons
John Salmons would have arrived in Toronto long before the 2013 Rudy Gay trade were it not for what apparently was divine intervention. You see, back in 2006, Salmons reneged on a verbal agreement to sign with the Raptors as a free agent and instead accepted a similar offer with Sacramento. In explaining his decision to back out of a handshake deal in Toronto, Salmons acknowledged, "I didn't really feel [Toronto] was where God was leading me." If any Raptor fan ever claims that the fates are conspiring against their team, this might be as good a piece of evidence as any.
Needless to say, the excuse didn't go over well in Toronto, with Salmons' only saving grace being that only hardcore basketball fans really knew who he was. Still, at least a portion of the fan base hadn't forgotten his snub seven years later, when the veteran swingman did end up with the Raptors, coming back essentially as cap fodder in the Gay trade. Surprisingly, Salmons became Casey's first guard off the bench and averaged 21.4 minutes over 60 games during the 2013-14 season. While he probably merits some credit for exceeding expectations as a Raptor, his significant role didn't exactly appease a fan base who wanted more minutes for Terrence Ross - not that it was Salmons' fault, mind you. The University of Miami alum's greatest contribution to the Raps came in his exit, as a trade that saw him shipped to Atlanta brought a return of Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira and Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams.
13 Aleksandar Radojevic/Michael Bradley
Here we come to a pair of the forgotten draft busts in the franchise's early years. While not as infamous as other to-be-named busts on this list, Aleksandar Radojevic and Michael Bradley both drew the scorn of Raptor fans and teammates after proving to be flops in Toronto despite their lofty draft positions. To be fair, this era was defined moreso by the team's mismanagement than by Radojevic and Bradley. Glen Grunwald had overseen the club during the booming Vince Carter years and had even orchestrated the trade for the man, himself, but also had some clear draft misses as part of his resume.
That being said, the players deserve their share of the flak too. The appeal of Radojevic was readily evident in his 7'3" shot-blocking frame. However, an injury-riddled rookie season in 1999 also demonstrated how hopelessly raw the young Serb was, as he scored just seven points across three games while shooting under 30%. That fleeting impression would be the only one he would make in Toronto, as he would soon be shipped to Denver in a multi-player trade that brought back Keon Clark. Bradley would at least have an NBA career to speak of, but precious little in terms of notable highlights as a forward who struggled to shoot or defend in the pros. At No. 12, Radojevic was selected ahead of the likes of Metta World Peace, Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili, while Bradley's 17th selection in 2001 came before Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace and, gulp, Tony Parker.
12 DeMarre Carroll
Now things get a little awkward, as we include a current Raptor on this "Most Hated" list. The white elephant in the room over what has otherwise been a very encouraging past two seasons that have seen the Raps win three playoff series, DeMarre Carroll looks like an expensive free agent bust and a rare Masai Ujiri misstep in Toronto. Barring a trade, the former Atlanta Hawk will have more opportunities to prove himself worthy of the four-year, $64 million contract he signed prior to the 2015-16 season. However, after two injury-riddled years of failing to meet expectations on either facet of his 3-and-D reputation, the natives are growing restless.
Upon arriving in Toronto, Carroll seemed to be an apt, albeit expensive, fit, filling a small forward spot that had loomed as a significant weakness during the team's breakthrough 2013-14 and 14-15 campaigns. While no one can blame him for coming up on the wrong side of a couple of playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers where he found himself tasked with guarding LeBron James, you can't blame fans for expecting more than the 8.9 points per game he managed last season, not to mention just 4.2 points per playoff game. Even worse, Carroll has gradually lost minutes to PJ Tucker and Norman Powell, calling his future role with the team into question.
11 Landry Fields
Carroll was hardly the first expensive Raptors free agent acquisition to be undermined by his inability to shoot. There may be no other player on this "Most Hated" list who was, in fact, harder to hate than Landry Fields. Perpetually smiling, the likable Fields was a great teammate and a consummate professional, even as his role diminished and his shooting continued to struggle amidst a lingering hand injury. But the NBA is a performance-based league and Fields, smiles and all, simply didn't cut it in Toronto.
The acquisition of Fields was actually something of an inspired coup by then-GM Bryan Colangelo. In order to get the promising youngster as a restricted free agent coming off of his rookie contract, Colangelo leveraged the New York Knicks' preoccupation with pursuing Steve Nash and snatched him away with a three year, $20 million offer sheet that the Knicks were in no position to match. But the promise of adding a versatile 24-year-old who could score, pass and rebound never came to be and he would never average so many as five points per game over three seasons in Toronto. It is telling that, upon the end of his contract in 2015, a still-in-his-prime Fields couldn't find a team interested in his services before ultimately accepting a scouting position with the San Antonio Spurs.
10 Anthony Bennett
The NBA proved such an unwelcoming place for one-time first overall draft selection Anthony Bennett that he was already on his third team and firmly considered a bust by the time the Raptors picked him up from the bargain bin in 2015, just two years after originally being selected with the top pick. By then, there was already precious little hope that he would ever realize the potential that saw him become the first player off the board in 2013. And with little to lose on the part of the already-deep Raps, there was little at stake in his signing. But even still, it was hard to completely ignore the enticing narrative of a local star finally realizing his potential upon returning home.
Indeed, the focus on Bennett in Toronto was probably a fair bit more than your typical 15th guy on the roster. But even by the limited standards and expectations placed upon him, the Brampton native disappointed. Getting into 19 games, he never scored more than five points and often looked lost and unprepared on court. The confidence-lacking big man's averages of 1.5 points and 29.6% shooting represented the statistical low point of an already dubious career and the encouraging applause of a fan base genuinely rooting for him soon dissipated. Now out of the NBA, Bennett ironically picked up a EuroLeague championship ring while riding the bench with Turkish super team Fenerbace, playing slightly over one minute in the final against Olympiacos.
9 Rudy Gay
To date, the NBA legacy of Rudy Gay has been a complicated and enigmatic one. At just 30 years of age, the one-time UConn star has scored nearly 14,000 career points and has served as a reliable offensive, rebounding and passing threat in each of his three NBA stops. What he doesn't have, however, is an All-Star appearance nor a notable playoff pedigree to his name (seven playoff games in 11 seasons). The latter is particularly problematic, especially given the curious tendency where teams seem to improve once they jettison him. The Memphis Grizzlies enjoyed a franchise-best Conference Finals appearance just months after sending him to Toronto in a multi-player mega-deal. Likewise, this current franchise high point of Raptors basketball kicked off unexpectedly with Gay's exit from the club.
Gay became something of a lightning rod for fans over what was just 51 total games with the club. While some credited him for contributing to a potent Raptors' offense while averaging nearly 20 points a night, others pointed to his ball-stopping and the challenge of finding enough shots to go around for him, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry as evidence of his poor fit. It was undoubtedly frustrating to Raptor fans to see the club make an ambitious move to get the talented scorer, one that saw them part ways with beloved point guard Jose Calderon, and then to wind up no better off than they were before. Instead, the improvement came almost instantly after he was shipped off to Sacramento, allowing DeRozan and Lowry to thrive in his absence and leaving him to miss out on yet another playoff run.
8 Jermaine O’Neal
There was no other front court in the Eastern Conference quite like the twin towers tandem of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal. That was the key selling point behind the acquisition of O'Neal, who was acquired in the summer of 2008 for a package featuring TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and a first round pick that became Roy Hibbert. The thinking was that O'Neal could help put over the top a Raptors team that had reached the postseason in each of the two previous years. That the former Pacer had arrived in Toronto coming off of an injury-riddled down year in Indiana did little to dampen the enthusiasm around his acquisition.
Unfortunately, the O'Neal that came north was more of the banged up 2007-08 version than the All-Star of the six years prior. To be fair, it wasn't his fault that Colangelo and the rest of the Raps' front office seemed to overlook the redundancy in having two similar post players in O'Neal and Bosh. Nevertheless, it was O'Neal who took much of the heat for failing to live up to the lofty expectations set upon him. The power forward didn't even last the season in Toronto, as Colangelo quickly acknowledged his mistake by flipping O'Neal in a package for Shawn Marion, but the damage had already been done. The club actually won eight fewer games than the season prior and, having been burned by an ambitious flame out, would not return to the playoffs again until the 2013-14 season.
7 Alonzo Mourning/Kenny Anderson/BJ Armstrong
You won't find much footage of any member of this trio in their Raptor duds. That's because Alonzo Mourning, Kenny Anderson and BJ Armstrong share the common distinction as having once been incoming talent that simply refused to come north. While it's hard to be hated if you never show up, these three men all played into perceptions both internally and externally that players didn't want to come to some northern outpost to play basketball and that Toronto was going to have trouble making its mark on the NBA.
Though the circumstances in each case were different, all three snubs essentially boiled down to a veteran player who had little interest plying his trade in Canada for an also-ran. Armstrong was the first, having been pried away from Michael Jordan's Bulls as the first pick in the Expansion Draft before immediately telling GM Isiah Thomas that he wanted out. Anderson was the returning centerpiece of the 1998 Damon Stoudamire trade, but didn't even bother crossing borders to report before making it known that he had no interest in playing in Canada. He would soon be shipped out to Boston for Chauncey Billups. Finally, Mourning was a Rob Babcock acquisition as part of the widely-panned Vince Carter trade, laughing at Babcock's pitch to serve as the mentor to a young team. Instead, Mourning wound up in Miami after getting bought out and would earn a championship ring with the Heat in 2006.
6 Doug Christie
Unlike many of the other players listed here, Doug Christie actually enjoyed some solid, productive years in Toronto. In joining the expansion Raptors midway through their inaugural season, he quickly earned a featured role - and a considerable minutes boost - that enabled him to highlight his strong two-way guard play. In fact, Christie remains the franchise's leader in steals by nearly 100 despite having departed the club almost 17 years ago. As a Raptor, he stuck around through some truly horrendous early teams and held on long enough to see the franchise's first playoff berth in 2000 before moving on to the Sacramento Kings.
Hindsight being 20/20, however, has allowed history to remember Christie a little differently, including his Toronto tenure. While it is Christie's Sacramento years that has stood as the most notable stretch of his 15-year NBA career, it was in Toronto that Doug and his wife Jackie began showing signs of what would come to be viewed as one of the most bizarre and unconventional marriages in the NBA. It's not that the Christie's didn't love each other - in fact, they were only too happy to publicly display that love, most famously in a publicity photo depicting Doug on all fours and wearing a dog collar as Jackie stands over him in dominatrix gear. The photo served to highlight a relationship characterized by Jackie's extreme control over her husband and one that painted Doug in a less than flattering light among fans and fellow NBA players, alike.
5 Vince Carter
There was a time when Vince Carter probably could've occupied all 15 spots on this list. That's how deeply loathed the man who was once known as "Air Canada" became in Toronto. Indeed, Carter's history with the Raptors is a long and complicated one, enjoying the highs of being an awe-inspiring franchise star that carried the club to its first playoff appearance and playoff series win and the lows of what was a pretty ugly divorce. After setting just about every franchise record, the writing was on the wall for Carter's exit from Toronto as the team's fortunes began to dwindle and his recommended GM candidate (Julius Erving) was overlooked in favor of Rob Babcock. While no one could blame VC for embracing a fresh start elsewhere, it was how he left that rubbed Raptor fans the wrong way.
After being dealt to New Jersey in the aforementioned infamous Alonzo Mourning trade, Carter made the startling admission that he hadn't exactly put forth a full, honest effort in his waning time with the Raps. Even for a fan base of a team that would win just 33 games in Carter's final season, a lack of effort was unacceptable from their highly paid star. The boos that greeted the 2000 Slam Dunk champion upon his first game back as a Net were uncomfortable in both their volume and sheer level of rage, an irate reaction that only slightly dissipated in other ensuing visits. But time, as they say, heals all wounds. As the club has reached new peaks in recent years, their fans no longer need to grasp on to the Carter years to find one golden age to fixate on. There have even been on-going rumors of the possibility of a reunion between player and team, this time with Vince as a veteran bench player on a likely playoff-bound team. For his part, Carter hasn't ruled out a return to Toronto.
4 Hedo Turkoglu
"Ball". Strangely, Hedo Turkoglu's ambitious and ultimately failed tenure in Toronto can be summarized in this one word that isn't even particularly damning or controversial. But Turkoglu's awkward one-word answer to a question posed by TV commentator Jack Armstrong in a live post-game interview served to typify his seemingly distant, blase persona while playing for the Raptors. Not only did Turkoglu under-perform during his one season in Toronto after being acquired in an off-season mega-deal, but he seemed largely indifferent to how the team fared, both on and off the court. For a fan base that has long adored the hard-working types (Matt Bonner, Jerome Williams, etcetera), the loafing Turkoglu proved hard to embrace.
While memorable and widely mocked, the "Ball" interview was merely one component of a litany of strange actions and behaviors that helped alienate Turkoglu from fans who were so eager to celebrate his arrival. Towards the end of that 2009-10 season, the Turkey native was spotted at a nightclub just hours after having sat out a game with a stomach virus. At season's end, the rift that had been created between player and team became irreparable when Turkoglu took to a Turkish television network to express his displeasure in Toronto and his desire for a trade. He would get his wish, being shipped to Phoenix soon thereafter.
3 Chris Bosh
The time that has healed some wounds when it comes to Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors' fan base hasn't quite come in the case of Chris Bosh. Granted, the fervor surrounding Bosh's exit was never quite as heightened as it was for the player he surpassed in many franchise categories. Resentment felt towards the man once known as CB4 seemed to center on general antipathy to the birth of the Miami Heat's much-reviled "Big Three" and the whispered belief that the teaming of Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had actually been orchestrated years prior to their 2010 union. Still, the rude welcoming offered by the ACC faithful upon Bosh's return paled in comparison to how Cleveland treated James after he "took his talents to South Beach."
Whatever anger that existed surrounding Bosh's 2010 departure has probably dampened some over the past seven years. But in the case of the talented power forward, there has never been the chance for any real closure as there was with Carter. For as long as Bosh was healthy, his Heat would dominate the Raptors and leave their fans continually embittered and unsatisfied. The recent spate of success in Toronto has not only coincided with Miami's fall from grace, but has come at a time when Bosh has struggled to remain healthy amidst blood clot issues that have put his playing career in jeopardy. The Georgia Tech product is still optimistic that he will be able to resume his career, albeit probably not in Miami. Could Bosh and the Raptors one day put the past behind them?
2 Rafael Araujo
Criticism of a team's draft choices can often be an unfair exercise with the benefit of hindsight. It's easy, after all, to weigh in on the quality of a player when they've proven - or not proven - their value at the pro level as compared to projecting what they will do in the years to follow. But few aside from then-Raptor GM Rob Babcock needed the benefit of hindsight to recognize that taking BYU big man Rafael Araujo with the No. 8 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft was a bad idea. You'd be hard pressed to find any projections that had the bruising forward poised to go that high and, as it turns out, Babcock wasn't the smartest guy in the room who knew something that others didn't about Araujo.
The tattooed Brazilian probably doesn't warrant the heaps of scorn that have been dumped on him by Raptor fans over the years. Araujo was a hard-nosed competitor who simply didn't have a whole lot of basketball talent but was burdened by the expectations associated with his lofty draft slot. It certainly doesn't help that the Philadelphia 76ers used the ensuing pick to snare future Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Iggy aside, Araujo frustrated Raptor fans and teammates alike by displaying few redeeming qualities on either side of the floor before being dealt to Utah for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley. Although Araujo hoped a return to his old college stomping grounds would bring about a fresh start, he would never improve upon his disappointing rookie averages of 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
1 Andrea Bargnani
It remains a complicated and polarizing question more than a decade after his No. 1 overall draft selection - is Andrea Bargnani a draft bust? Many Raptor fans would be quick to say yes and, in their defense, "Il Mago" never came close to achieving the kind of franchise star status that the top pick demands. But to be fair to the Italian seven-footer, his stats match up well with most of his disappointing draft class, of which no franchise stars truly emerged (none of LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay or Paul Millsap quite make the cut). But even as Bargnani continues to occupy lofty spots in most franchise statistical categories for the Raps, fans of the club simply don't carry any warm fuzzies in looking back on his tenure with the team.
Despite ranking fourth on the team's all-time scoring list, Bargnani's time in Toronto can be characterized by unfulfilled expectations. As a sharp-shooting big man, he could have comprised half of an ideal front court pairing alongside Chris Bosh. However, he was constantly undermined by an inconsistent shot, an apathetic approach to defense and some consistently bad body language that made him appear indifferent and aloof. The fact that he lasted seven seasons in Toronto spoke volumes of both the endless opportunities he received as a Raptor and the maddening nature of his inability to never fully put it together. It's no coincidence that his best statistical season came in 2010-11, the same year that the team won just 22 games for the franchise's worst season since their 16-win 1997-98 campaign.