December 2nd, 2005: Toronto Raptors vs Atlanta Hawks
At the time this game was played the Raptors had a 1-15 records while the Hawks were 2-12. According to the Elias Sports Bureau the combined .100 winning percentage of both teams was the worst is NBA history for opponents who had totalled at least 30 games. Better yet, ESPN announced that it was the worst match-up of all-time. For fans of the Toronto Raptors it was the moment when we realized that we were now cheering for a franchise that had become a running joke.
This knowledge had been creeping up on Raptor fans for a while but getting lumped in with a team as dysfunctional as the Hawks (owners suing each other, 10 small forwards on roster, Tyronne Lue as starting point guard) was really a shock to the system. Suddenly we realized we were cheering for a team as bad as the Atlanta Hawks. It wasn't just the won-loss record but the fact that people everywhere were noticing just how bad the Raptor franchise was. It was Atlanta Hawk bad. Worse yet, at least people in Atlanta are smart enough not to pay money to attend Hawk games.
This was as low as a franchise could get and there were only two ways up. They could continue to be stupendously inept, enter into Smiling Retarded Child Territory where everybody expects incompetence, and snatch the "lovable loser" title away from the Clippers. And it looked like that might be the way things would turn out after the Raptors blew a 10-point 4th quarter lead against the Hawks that night. But the other method could be to clear house and commit to a winning system both on the court and in management. Fortunately the choice was made when promising rookie Charlie Villanueva -- representing the franchise's youth, vision and future -- drove for the winning hoop with 2.5 seconds left.
The Raptors would go on to a successful month of December, would fire Rob Babcock in January, clear cap space and hire a young dynamic GM who had already experienced success in the NBA. Raptor fans rejoice, the franchise is ascendant!
Charlie Villanueva was traded 6 months later.