This was originally published immediately following the Raptors' Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriprs in the 2019 NBA Finals. It has been lightly edited to remain current.
For years, the Toronto Raptors were a laughingstock. A perennial punch line. The team that played basketball games in a baseball stadium called SkyDome.
Of course, Kobe poured in 81 against the Dinos. A team that squandered a high first round pick on Rafael Araujo and took Andrea Bargnani number 1. And yep, then there's LeBronto: every Toronto fan's personal house of horrors, unable to exorcise the demon that is the most popular athlete of the last 20 years.
That's why last year was so fulfilling. Because of all the pain and misery that fans have had to endure.
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No longer the forgotten sibling in a Leafs-driven city, the Raptors popularity surged not only in the GTA but across Canada. Jurassic Parks have been shaking from Halifax to Regina with rabid basketball fans.
Wow, Regina. You really showed up! #raptors pic.twitter.com/JV4euebDbk- Darrell Romuld (@CTVDarrell) June 11, 2019
And to see the crowds in Toronto is to appreciate the essence of what makes my hometown so special: Cosmopolitan, inclusive and multicultural to the core.
Yes, I'm thrilled for my friend Nav Bhatia, a now-familiar tale of an immigrant Canadian success story. Nav immediately reached out to me once he saw my foray in sports media, two South Asians, a Muslim and a Sikh, recognizing shared backgrounds and he generously gave tickets to my family as he's done for so many others (and Nav is quite the businessman since he sold me a Hyundai Elantra which I had for seven wonderful years!)
I'm so happy for Jim LaBumbard, one of the nicest guys in the business who was the tirelessly upbeat PR Man for the Raptors when the job was thankless and exhausting. Lombo was always great for a laugh and remains the top of the class for what sports PR should be: accessible, respected and gracious to all, no matter who you are.
But most of all, I'm thinking of all my friends at the Score and Raptors TV. I had the pleasure of hosting Court Surfing and witnessing the rise of basketball as a mainstream sport, but there are an innumerable amount of people who have been so loyal to the cause.
Chris Hebb, Aaron Lafontaine, Akil Augustine, Dan Gladman, Scott Wallace, Dave Leiter, Sherman Hamilton, Jack Armstrong, Leo Rautins, Matt Devlin, Chuck Swirsky and hundreds of others behind the scenes.
It's their unwavering loyalty that's being rewarded as a championship is coming to Toronto by slaying the mighty Goliath that is the Warriors.
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Whether Kawhi stays or goes is immaterial. Masai Ujiri pulled off a gutsy trade and built a winner. We are all winners for it.
Toronto: City of a Champion.
Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
The views expressed here do not reflect those of the NBA or its clubs.