It actually happened. After the Eastern Conference win, I felt the eagerness and anticipation, which I shared in my related posts – but for it to actually come true – there are no words to describe the feeling.
These last few weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least. The saying, ‘when there is a will, there is a way‘ – fittingly the title of my last post could not possibly ring more true now.
The Toronto Raptors – after a long and arduous journey, complete with a trail of blood, sweat and tears (quite literally), did what they, and all of the fans have been dreaming of for the last 24 years:
They won it all. They made it to that finishing line.
One week ago today, the Toronto Raptors were crowned the 2019 NBA Champions. They brought the gold home to the North.
I brought in Raptors-themed cupcakes to the office the day of the game to lift everyone’s spirits. It was overcast and rainy with much uncertainty in the air; so I’ve low-key convinced myself that they ended up being a good luck charm in the end. 🙂
Of course, it would have been ideal to win in Toronto – I can only imagine the pandemonium that would have ensued – but dethroning the Warriors on their own turf was also a reason to smile about. Also, I think we overdid it on the anticipation meter in Game 5 when we practically expected to win. It was well-intentioned, of course, but it took one measly point to give us that reality check that sent us back to Oakland for Game 6.
Although our loyal fans crowded Jurassic Park that night, the vibe felt more ‘dummed down’ in a sense because there was now the very real possibility that the Warriors could come back with a vengeance and turn things upside down. Game 6 was certainly reflective of that fierce, competitive desire to win, as it damn near gave me a heart attack!
From start to finish, I was left practically breathless with how close it was and the frequency of all the lead changes. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are incredible shooters, there’s no denying it, and almost every time the ball got in their hands, we found ourselves trailing again.
This was no landslide victory. We fought tooth and nail – winning one second, losing the other. And those final .9 seconds of the game seemed to last an eternity. But once that final buzzer sounded, it was all worth it.
The Raptors came in as the underdogs and beat a team that are no strangers to the NBA title, having won the championship six times before in franchise history. The Raptors beat them not once, not twice, but three times, on their own turf. We leveled the playing field – we showed the Warriors what was up.
And I’m sure the Warriors now have a new-found respect for the Raptors. This was evident in a full-page ad they took out after the win, congratulating us on the win. A classy move by the Warriors. And I want to say that I like Stephen Curry. He has familial ties to Toronto and his dad used to play for the Raptors. He just seems like a genuinely nice dude.
Kawhi Leonard was remarkable, to say the least, in leading the Raptors to this win, but the team as a whole did a tremendous job in making it all a reality. You could see the depth of camaraderie between them throughout the playoffs.
When I had the pleasure of attending game 1 of Eastern Conference semi-finals back in April against the Philadelphia 76ers, I never would have imagined we would come this far. Why? Because we know how the story goes: you dream of moments like this. Every year, it’s the thing that you are vying for, that you are working so hard to get to, but you fall short. You get so close, but not close enough. And then it’s so long until next season.
But not this year. This was our year.
When Kawhi hit that epic buzzer beater to send us to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bucks, the road to the throne suddenly came into focus again. And when we beat the Bucks after trailing 31-18 at one point in that oh-so-memorable May 25 game to take us to the finals, we knew then that even bigger things were about to happen. Dreams were coming true.
We were going to the finals for the first time ever.
At that time, that was the biggest deal. We’d won the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time. I personally thought that was enough of a milestone that I went I got a celebratory t-shirt.
And yet we achieved even more greatness by taking it all the way to the end. Truly a moment to soak in for years to come.
On Monday, Toronto saw one of its biggest turnouts for a sporting event, in virtually, ever. Recent estimates were saying that upwards of 3 million people poured into the streets of downtown Toronto to cheer on our newly-crowned Champions at the victory parade.
From blown up photos of Fred VanVleet‘s bandaged face, to the “plant guy” handing Kawhi himself a plant dubbed the “Kawhactus”; it’s like our fans have established their own Raptors culture. There is no match for it.
As much as I would have loved to have been in on that level of excitement in person, I was just as content streaming it from the comfort of my laptop. I commend those that stood outside for hours on end just to catch a glimpse of our star players, but I don’t think I could have lasted that long!
Now, of course, the buzz on the block is about what Kawhi s going to do next as his free agency looms ahead. Of course, I hope he stays on and continues this momentous journey with this incredible team. If he decides not to, we thank him oh-so-graciously for putting the Raptors on the map in the one season he played for them. All the accolades he has received are so well-deserved.
He is in popular demand by many teams, and rightfully so, but I feel like he has a soft spot for Toronto – especially after this roller-coaster of a ride to the title and that insane turnout on Monday.
Here’s hoping we’ve convinced the ‘King of the North’ that Toronto should be his home for the next little while.
What a moment for our nation and something we will look back on for years to come.
Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors – our 2019 NBA Champions!