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Toronto, home of the ‘Spanish Raptors’

The Raptors become the first team in the NBA to have boasted five Spanish players in their ranks.

Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka celebrate the 2019 NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are the first NBA franchise to have had five Spanish players in their ranks. During its 27-year history, Spanish stars José Manuel Calderón, Jorge Garbajosa, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and most recently, Juancho Hernángomez have all been on the Canadian team’s books.

The Raptors relationship with Spanish internationals began in the 2005-2006 season, when José Manuel Calderón became the first to cross the pond to move to Toronto. A season later, and after having been one of the best players in the country, Jorge Garbajosa left Unicaja de Málaga to join the franchise.

José Manuel Calderón before Sarunas Jasikevicius
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José Manuel Calderón before Sarunas JasikeviciusAP

The Extremadura-born point guard spent eight seasons with the franchise, leaving in 2013 as the fourth player with the most games played (525) and second highest number of assists in team history (3770).

Garbajosa, the current president of the Spanish Basketball Federation was chosen among the 10 best rookies of his season, but a serious ankle injury meant that he would spend just two years in American basketball. He would later return to Spain, joining Real Madrid for a couple of seasons until 2011.

Jorge Garbajosa against Andrew Bogut in the NBA
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Jorge Garbajosa against Andrew Bogut in the NBAALEJANDRO GONZALEZDIARIO AS

In February 2017, and in a transfer that sent Terrence Ross and a first round pick to Orlando, Serge Ibaka became the third Spanish player to star for the Canadians.

Two years later, in 2019, Marc Gasol packed his bags for Toronto in a trade that included Jonas Valanciunas, a key player in the Canadian franchise in previous seasons, with Delon Wright and CJ Miles arriving in Memphis also as part of the deal.

Marc Gasol y Serge Ibaka, en un partido de la NBA de los Toronto Raptors
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Marc Gasol y Serge Ibaka, en un partido de la NBA de los Toronto RaptorsSTREETER LECKAAFP

Both players helped the Raptors clinch the franchise’s first NBA championship after beating the Golden State Warriors in the Finals by 4-2. They certainly left their mark on the team’s history.

Finally, on July 26, Juancho Hernángomez signed a one-year contract with the team currently managed by Nick Nurse, becoming the fifth Spaniard to wear the white and red jersey, making Toronto a home of Spanish basketball in the North American league.


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