So much salami and cheese
Wow. They actually did it. The Toronto Raptors are NBA World Champions. Still has a weird ring to it. It’s even weirder typing that out. So I’ll say it again, the Toronto Raptors are World Champions. Canada hasn’t tasted victory this sweet since the “Golden Goal.” It hasn’t won a professional championship since 93. In 93′ if someone were to tell you that a basketball franchise would win the next big 4 title for Canada, you would be ridiculed to no avail. In 93′ Canada didn’t even have an NBA team, let alone the sport itself was still a baby in this country. My god, how the sport and this team have grown since the turn of the century. Hockey is something that Canada is known for around the globe, it’s part of who we are as a nation, but watching this country come together to support a team and a sport that quite frankly isn’t for everyone was truly something special. Basketball is now the second biggest sport in the world, and I believe it’s closing in on soccer to become number 1.
It took just a mere 24 years, seems like a life time, and for some fans it’s honestly longer than that. As for this guy, well I’ve been around long enough to remember Isaiah Thomas running through that Raptors logo, as our first ever GM. Or even when they announced the name of this beloved organization. Shout out to Steven Spielberg for making dinosaurs cool again in 1993 with Jurassic Park. If I could pick one person to not be my first ever GM I think Isaiah would be pretty close to the top of that list. A dog on the court, one of the best pure PG’s the league has ever seen. But when it comes to anything other than his basketball talents, the man was kind of a train wreck. Some could argue he was the worst GM in the history of the NBA with his combined efforts in Toronto and New York.
It was kind of a rocky start to the franchise. Playing out of the Skydome, no one knew anything about Canada and even our team name “the Raptors” was mocked. It took a few years to get going, the highlight in the beginning was beating MJ’s Bulls in the season they went 72-10. Kind of a sad highlight reel if you ask me. Then something changed. It was the night of the 1998 NBA draft and the Raptors had the 4th overall pick and selected Antawn Jamison from the university of UNC. A great college player no doubt, but his teammate at UNC went one pick later to Golden State, Mr. Vince Carter. We swapped picks with Golden State and everyone knows the rest. VC or Air Canada himself put the team and this country on his back and on the map. If you’re old enough to remember where you were during the 2000 dunk contest. It’s one of the most memorable nights in the history of the game. We all watched perfection occur in midair. Something else happened that year too. Our first trip to the NBA playoffs. Standing in our way. The New York Knicks, who were kind of basketball royalty at that time, I know that’s so strange to hear, but coming off a finals appearance, the Raptors got their asses kick and were swept out of the first round 3 games to none. Not to mention Vince was a deer caught in the headlights for the entire series. Do you all remember how bad VC was in that first playoff series? I remember because my father I think lost his voice every few days from yelling at the television so much. Back in the day where we hardly got any NBA games broadcasted here in Canada. A time before NBA league pass, all we really got to see was Christmas Day games, the playoffs and the Raptors. It’s weird. I’ll never forget that first playoff run, because maybe it was how close to the television me and my dad would sit and it was the first time, as a country and fans that we all thought “this could really happen for us someday.” Raps get eliminated, T-Mac goes to Orlando and Butch Carter gets fired (thank god). True story about Butch. He tried to sue Marcus Camby during the 2000 playoffs. That’s right a coach tried to sue a former player and this was making headlines when we WERE TRYING TO COMPETE IN OUR FIEST PLAYOFF SERIES
The following year, VC becomes a superstar, arguably the most entertaining basketball player on planet Earth, and we made it back to the playoffs. Standing in our way yet again, the New York Knicks. 5 games later, the Toronto Raptors had won their very first playoff series. Pure bliss, we had beaten the Knicks in a playoff series and were now going to face Allen Iverson and the Sixers. We all know what happens next. Game 7 arrives, VC decides to attend his graduation at UNC that morning, and misses a shot at the buzzer to propel us into the ECF against the Bucks. Everything changed after that……..
Injuries pile up on Vince, he starts to feel the pressure, he starts to not have fun anymore playing basketball for Toronto. “I don’t wanna dunk anymore.” An actual quote from the greatest dunker the game has ever seen. It was a messy breakup, but one that had to happen. We shipped him off to our rival the New Jersey Nets for essentially a basket of muffins. Not. Fun. Times.
We’ve had arguably a few of the worst head coaches in the history of the league. Some of the worst draft picks. Like this franchise was laughable. But at the time so was the city. They both have come far in the last 15 years. Toronto has made some history with coaches, we’ve had coaches that have gone on to never ever have head coaching jobs again in this league. Do you know how difficult that is? Coaches are recycled yearly, but some of ours were so bad, all it took was one job. Darrell Walker and Kevin O’Neil, remember Kevin O’Neil, aka Larry David. The Raptors had Larry David for a head coach at one point in history. We drafted, Andrea Bargnani, Rafael Araujo, Charlie Villanueva, Aleksandar Radojevic. How could this team build any sort of fondation when we were the laughing stock of the draft? No free agents wanted to come here, Toronto wasn’t even cool yet. It was so hard to get going after VC left because the Raptors were simply the worst run organization in the NBA. Until we got Bosh and DeRozan nothing was happening within this team. Bosh was just wasted as a Raptor and I never faulted him or any other star for wanting out. Toronto wasn’t ready to handle a star and it’s not the city it is today. They all helped pave the way for this moment and we should be thanking them. We hated on VC for far too long, and I was even apart of that in the beginning. It’s time to just accept our past and now move towards an even brighter future.
Then it all changed. Masai Ujiri decided to take his talents from Denver to Toronto and that’s when everything started to happen. We drafted better, go back and look at our draft picks from 2012 onward. Every single player is still a relevant NBA rotational player. Even Bruno sprouted his wings this year in Memphis. Ujiri didn’t just change the team, he transformed the culture. His biggest move was simply. Trading Rudy Gay and keeping Lowry. THEY WERE GOING TO TANK FOR ANDREW FUCKING WIGGINS. Could you imagine watching Wiggins and DeMar shoot long 2s for years on end. If that would have happened, I don’t know what kind of shape my life would be in regards to me being a Raptors fan. We didn’t trade him and that year. That year was game 7 against Brooklyn and who took the shot at the end of the game.? It wasn’t DeMar……
The day and moment I pinpoint this whole organization changing is January 27th, 2014. The Raptors were on the road in Brooklyn and they were down 1. Remember this game? Patrick Patterson steals the inbounds and we get to go ahead layup? That moment, that game, changed the entire season. It built so much confidence in this newly built team post Rudy Gay trade, and it impacted the standings where the Nets never caught the Raptors in the end and we ended up winning our first Division Title in a long time. All the playoff success, I call it success. Would you rather not make the playoffs, be the Charlotte’s, the Knicks and the Sacramento’s of the world? We went to the playoffs year after year and have some pretty good runs. It just wasn’t ever enough. We were never enough….
Someone had to go. Something had to be done. One day we all woke up and DeMar DeRozan had been traded to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Kawhi Leonard, the cyborg, one of the best players in the NBA, a finals MVP. He was now apart of our team, and a man who we watched grow up before our eyes and shaped this franchise into an almost contender. It was bittersweet to watch DeMar leave our team. We needed a change and we needed a makeover. So Masai dumped coach of the year Dwayne Casey and DeMar DeRozan. He scarified them to the basketball gods, in order to acquire two new gods. Nick Nurse a basketball prodigy, who was a player coach at the age of 23. Young enough where he wasn’t even able to drive the team van. On that team, Masai Ujiri. The other, Kawhi Leonard himself. The superstar who was forgotten by everyone. A man who was single handedly destroying the Golden State Warriors in the WCF before his devastating ankle injury. Things didn’t end perfectly with the Spurs, and Masai saw that as potential. Potential to acquire one of the best two-way players this game has ever seen for our most loyal soldier. As heartbreaking as it was to some, it turned out to be the greatest trade in NBA history, and perhaps sports history depending on if Kawhi decides to stay or not. Having one of the most dominant playoff runs ever, Toronto finally got to experience what it feels like to have a legit “superstar” on their roster. Something that is very rare in sports. I embraced every single second of Kawhi this post-season, in fact with about 20 games left in the regular season, I just wanted the playoffs to get here because I knew we wouldn’t see Kawhi fully unleashed until the playoffs.
The Raptors won a title and we are in the drivers seat to resign one of the games most dominant players, have a young stud in Pascal Siakim getting better each passing day and it cements Lowry as the greatest Raptor of all time. We ended one of the greatest dynasties ever. It wasn’t LeBron who took down the Warriors it was the Baby Dino’s. The team that was built this year was one for the record books. Not one top ten drafted player. Could be the first time in NBA history.
I don’t know about you, but like Drake said, this whole thing has me thinking “back to back”