Toronto Raptors To Play in 'City of Champions' For Rest of 2020-21 NBA Season

The Toronto Raptors have played all of their home games in Tampa, Florida so far this season. On Thursday, the team made it official that they would finish out this NBA season at Amalie Arena in the south Florida city.

Toronto is the last team from the NBA's Eastern Conference to win the NBA title, so it's only fitting that they're playing games in America's newest "City of Champions.

The city of Tampa has enjoyed two professional championships and one runner-up in the last seven months. First, the Tampa Bay Lightning won NHL's Stanley Cup last fall, and then the Tampa Bay Rays lost in the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV at their home digs of Raymond James Stadium, becoming the NFL's first team to ever play the big game at their home stadium. Then they became the first team to win the Lombardi Trophy at home.

Tampa does not have an NBA team, but they now have a de facto home team for the 2020-21 season.

COVID-19 led some cities and countries around the world to continue placing restrictions on what people and businesses can do. The Raptors found itself in a stalemate with the city of Toronto on whether they could play games at Scotiabank Arena because of "border restrictions."

Toronto Raptors Tampa Home Games
The Toronto Raptors announced on February 11, 2021, that they will play the remainder of their home games for the 2020-21 NBA season at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Raptors agreed to play the first half of their 2020-21 schedule in Tampa, hoping to get back into their Canadian home city later in the season. Raptors president Masai Ujiri released a statement Thursday that said they'd love to be back home, but Tampa will be the new home for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

"Florida has been really welcoming to us and we're so grateful for the hospitality we've found in Tampa and at Amalie [Arena] -- we're living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here," Ujiri said.

"But home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Toronto," he continued. "We think often of our fans, of our Scotiabank Arena family, and all those we are missing back home, and we can't wait until we can all be together again."

The Raptors are currently 12-13 on the season and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just one game behind the Boston Celtics (12-11). The Raptors can pull to .500 and fourth place should they beat the Celtics on Thursday night in Boston.

Toronto is 6-5 at their "new" home in Tampa, and have gone 10-5 after a rocky 2-8 start to the season.

The Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA title following the 2018-19 regular season, becoming the first Canadian team to win an NBA championship.

The Raptors aren't the only team to defect to the U.S. for a season because of COVID restrictions. The Blue Jays played their pandemic-shortened season in Buffalo, New York during the 2020 season.

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