The preHISTORIC Season
For 24 years, the Raptors were the outcast of the NBA, the lone Canadian franchise on the outside looking in. Sometimes we tried too hard to fit in, constantly seeking the approval of our neighbors in the south. But when the attention was warranted (6 division titles), Canada's team always remained an afterthought -- especially when it came to Christmas games.
But now we are 2019 NBA champions, a statement I still can't believe.
Witnessing the country unite in celebration to this championship was surreal. Even Quebec suddenly wants to be a part of Canada now.
Admittedly, it hasn't been easy being a beat blogger for the Raps. Sure, the pay is great but I didn't get into blogging for the money, women and fame. It was for moments like these. This team took the long road to the championship. A team that was named after the popularity of a Spielberg movie in 1993 about Dinosaurs, who had their inaugural season in the spacious Skydome stadium. We weren't suppose to last much longer than Vancouver did, but there was a glimmer of hope when we got our only first overall pick in 2006. However, Italian hooper Andrea Bargnani turned out to be one of the bigger busts of the decade. Very on-brand for the Canadian franchise. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel during this tenure, we just couldn't see it. Masai Ujiri was our assistant gm in 2008, he left for the Nuggets in 2010 and won the NBA executive of the year in 2013.
Masai returned to the Raps after receiving a Godfather offer that he couldn't refuse and the revolution began. He dumped Bargnani immediately and we started to take over the Atlantic division.
Ujiri has been the backbone behind this championship team. When our charismatic president isn't shouting profanities at the opposing team in press conferences, he's closing deals and building the brand.
He threw up a Hail Mary of a deal last summer when he dealt the greatest player in franchise history for an injured, disgruntled superstar who only played nine games the year before. A gamble that may go down as one of the greatest transactions in NBA history, or worse case, the greatest one-year rental. Although, most of the North felt indifferent about Masai firing the Coach of the Year last summer and replacing him with our assistant. However, journeyman Nick Nurse proved to be the final piece to the puzzle.
Outside of Kawhi, no one on this team was ever drafted in the top 15, with over half the team going undrafted or in the final round. Throughout the entirety of their careers, they've had to block the noise and bet on themselves, similar to Canada's only NBA team. Now the 6ix wins in 6, dismantling the Warriors' dynasty that was predicted to be the greatest NBA team in history. The perfect underdog story that Hollywood couldn't write.
"Experts" from the south were quick to throw an asterisk on our title because Klay Thompson went down in the second half of the final game and KD only played an electric eleven minutes. This left the Warriors at a serious disadvantage with only four future Hall of Famers left compared to Toronto's lone HOF lock.
I would argue that Golden state had too many egos and was stronger with a few of their injuries. Too many chiefs with this tribe of Warriors. Bill Simmons referred to GS as a movie with a star-studded cast but not enough roles and lines. They're similar to the Fast and the Furious series, which was perfect at the start under Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and the addition of Tyrese (Klay, Steph and Draymond Green). However, adding Jason Statham and the Rock (Demarcus Cousins and Durant) may have been overkill. Now KD and Boogie are off to do their own thing this summer in free agency just like Hobbs and Shaw plan to.
Those experts can take their asterisk and shove it. No championship has an asterisk to it and every championship has injuries involved. Toronto had to get through Philadelphia, which was arguably the toughest series, followed by the league-best Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals.
Asterisks didn't stop the Raptors from celebrating and it definitely didn't stop the city or this country. But one power-tripping police office attempted to put a stop to Masai's celebration, failing to recognize the president of the best NBA team in the world. Masai allegedly struck the police officer when the cop aggressively demanded credentials. Now Oakland police is further investigating, and I plan to go full Hardy Boys mode as the investigation continues.
Tough look on Golden State not educating their officers on high-profile team executives, a week after a team owner pushed an innocent Kyle Lowry mid-game. I am not here to say GS seems racist but the racism watch dog is barking pretty loud right now. Thankfully Masai was able to make it home in time for his daughters graduation Friday, completing a wild 24 hours for the gm
Drake had the team fly out to Sin City to honour the champs at one of his shows. The global ambassador must have showed them a good time because they unexpectedly extended their bender right until the championship parade.
And for the rest of us born again basketball fans, we did it right. The first NBA city to host tailgate parties, now setting the standard for other fan bases. Other than a shooting (deemed non-related) and a couple situations of vehicular vandalism, Toronto celebrated harder and better than any other city to do it.
The Raptors have a big summer on tap. Masai is likely penning the final terms in Leonard's new contract, while the rest of us wait to give the champions a summer send off at Monday's parade. New or old, it's a great time to be Raps fan right now.