Being an equipment manager in the NBA is a tireless and thankless job that offers free travel at the expense of long days and nights. Raptors equipment manager Paul Elliott has worked with the team for 13 years, and recently showed Sportsnet some of the ins and outs of getting the Raptors ready for game day.
Photography by Aaron Wynia
Think packing for your team vacation is tough? Imagine packing all the needs for 15 professional athletes who will be wearing three different uniforms over an 8 game road trip. The amount of luggage that accompanies the team on the road is so vast the Raptors have built in storage area in their private lounge at Pearson airport to store gear so they don’t have to lug everything to and from the Air Canada Centre (and, now, the Biosteel Centre.) “I travel with 14 equipment bags on the road, which is the lightest in the league,” says Elliott. “After that you get lost in the amount of stuff you have.”
Because keeping uniforms clean on a long road trip without the benefit of industrial washers and dryers is next to impossible, equipment mangers from different teams work together to keep teams outfitted and prepared. “I’ll get a text saying ‘I’m coming in dirty,’”Elliott says. “Teams fly in at all-times of night and normally they’ll leave the uniforms with the bell hop at the hotel and I’ll get them and have them done by the next day for game time. Anything they need on the road I provide and they reciprocate when we travel.”
Part of the equipment manager’s job is coordinating with the brands to make sure their sponsored athletes have an abundance of options on the court. Elliott is also working on behalf of the players to make sure they have compliant footwear. All of the shoes are packaged and handled by the equipment staff and given to players as they take the court. How many do they wear a year? “Not as many as you’d think,” says Elliott. “Patrick Patterson has worn the same shoe all year. Cory Joseph was like that before changing from LeBron’s to Kyrie’s. Most guys go through anywhere from 4-8 depending on what the brand wants them to wear but they don’t change them because they like them broken in.”
There is a method to the madness of what the Raptors wear and when. At home the Raptors only wear white unless they are wearing the “OVO” themed black and gold uniforms you see for each “Drake night.” The predominant road uniform is the reds which they are obligated to wear the majority of the time for their 41 regular season road games. They can’t wear their alternate black and red or “OVO” uniforms more than 18 times a year. The Raptors bring two pairs of each uniform for each player. “I bring a game set and a blood sweat. That way if a player gets a jersey bloody or it rips during a game we can just swap it out”.