Thought is incredibly powerful. In my adolescent life, I managed to understand the importance of having a vision when it comes to setting goals and executing them. Like many Torontonians, I have always been a dreamer. Someone who reached peak success through the motivation of their visions. We love to dream up North. However, not even in my most creative and memorable visions, did I ever for-see what we all experienced on May 25th, 2019.
After trailing for almost the entire game, Kawhi Leonard led the charge in the final two quarters where he would begin the run with a monster slam over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a pair of late game free-throws that iced the game with 3.8 seconds left in the contest. As the clock ran down and the confetti fell to the floor, Lowry ran over to his family; while smiling from ear to ear, the Raptors legend coddled his baby boys and held on until he could no more. Leonard raised his arms in victory, congratulating all of his teammates as he walked to the bench. The presentation, the interviews, Kawhi hoisting the trophy — it was everything.
There is no question that the Raptors are Canada’s team and we are the flagship of an entire nation when it comes to the basketball scene in Canada. Although they share our passion and love for the team, there is something about being from this city. I don’t intend to exclude any of my neighbours (Canadian or American), however this means something entirely different to those who were born and/or raised in the very fabric of this city. People often inquire with me why Toronto is such a proud group of people. In many cases we’re proud losers, but it doesn’t matter. It never has. We continue to support and we continue to provide energy, passion and “over the top” pride in our teams.
On the outside, this is just some minor basketball history for a team that just never made it there before. They look at this season and this moment as just one of many instances where a team has managed to make the finals for the first time and is rather excited about it. But it’s the people, the ones that walk these streets everyday that PROVED our dedication. They packed Jurassic Park with 16,000 people watching the game together and mobbed every player, coach and employee that came through the back doors. This means everything for the people of Toronto because it is in our culture to identify with our sports teams. We are the only city to be a consistent participant in most American sports. We are the pride, the face and the identity of our nation and every fan takes pride in that.
We have always carried an underdog mentality that only the organization and fanbase can connect on. We have been historically ridiculed, laughed at, mocked, avoided and flat out forgotten about throughout many of our seasons. Media outlets resisted from picking up our stories or talking about our players. I remember being a kid and in love with ESPN First Take, back when it was Stephen A. Smith with Skip Bayless. I would watch almost all their videos, and once a week I would scour the web to see if they even had a single video about the Raptors. They did. Our interest in Rajon Rondo at the time was just about good enough to make their quick fire segment on a slow news day.
To making the playoffs every year which was an achievement of its own, to getting tired of being eliminated by LeBron and his teammates every post-season. People love to make fun of the Raptors. The general media and fans of the NBA have always poked fun at our franchise for being unwanted and unsuccessful. Good or bad, a joke or real sentiment, they all ate their words on Saturday. This is why this win meant so much. This is why we had confetti and a massive ceremony that had our players and fanbase in tears of joy. We have waited 24 long years to live this unimaginable reality. All the years of trolling, watching Primo Pasta commercials and losing almost every game was suddenly worth it when the clock hit triple zeros. We’re aware we haven’t won a championship, but we simply don’t care.
Don’t tell me I’ll never climb a certain mountain and when I do, immediately point to another mountain to climb while completely ignoring the fact I just climbed a fu*king mountain. We will enjoy the fruits of our hard labor, however we are aware the job isn’t done. Perhaps the most satisfying fact of making the NBA Finals for the first time, is that we did it with the best player in the world as our leader but it was our supporting cast that carried us through the storms.
We will see if our destiny awaits a championship ring coming up North for the first time in NBA history or if World domination continues at the hands of Golden State. Honestly it matters to me, I want to win and I believe we will. However whatever the occurrence, we must all be incredibly proud of this team, the coaching staff and the organization that has done a phenomenal job through all the adversity to the pioneers of NBA Finals basketball in the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations people of Toronto, you are the Kings of the East and nobody will ever be able to take that away from you.
By Maiyo Shahrawan