The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions!
When I was asked to reflect on this Cinderella run, I thought to myself, where should I start? I was only 6-years-old in the Raptors' inaugural year, right around the time I began to develop my love for the game. So many emotions and flashbacks come to mind over the franchise's 24-year existence.
Yet, the thing that strikes me most during this championship pursuit has nothing to do with the actual sport, in terms of wins or losses, star players or previous playoff runs.
What hit me is how powerful the game is in uniting people together. The Raptors have done just that, providing people from coast-to-coast with hope and faith in their day-to-day lives that it is possible to beat the odds, despite a large dose of doubt.
The Raptors have captured the imagination of an entire country, with momentum that was built by each round as the team proved the naysayers wrong, while making believers out of people all over the country - both basketball and non-basketball people, young and old, black, white or brown.
Always looking South, we Canadians typically have this little brother mentality when it comes to the U.S. Maybe it's their population of over 300 million (in comparison to Canada's 37 million) or maybe it's the fact that the Raptors are the NBA's only Canadian franchise.
Masai Ujiri told us to believe in ourselves and "believe in the city" at the beginning of the year while introducing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the media.
"Believe in the city. Believe in yourself" Thank you to our courageous leader Masai Ujiri who told us from the beginning, and won over the non believers. Let's get this chip! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/7B03dytqLN- Tariq Sbiet (@Tariq_NPH) May 26, 2019
That moment showed me what a great leader Masai is, in that he helped empower a city and a nation.
82 regular season games and four playoff rounds later, Canada holds the crown.
But what does this mean for Canadian Basketball?
What the summer of 2019 could be for Canadian Basketball:- Tariq Sbiet (@Tariq_NPH) June 9, 2019
🇨🇦June 10 - @Raptors become NBA Champions 🏆
🇨🇦 June 20 - Record # of Canadians drafted to NBA (4+), lead by 🌟 RJ Barrett
🇨🇦Aug 31-Sept 15 - @CanBball makes splash on global stage, @FIBA World Cup in China pic.twitter.com/UGQfVg0pfe
It means the world is watching the North, like never before. And it means industry growth. Despite the country's success in producing the most NBA players outside the USA, or the consistent 100-plus male and female student-athletes in the NCAA year by year, Canada has never been accepted as a basketball country due to our history of success in hockey.
The Raptors are champions now, and the numbers don't lie. The world witnessed something never seen before in any basketball market - a passion and love for the game which has been boiling up for 24 years and has now inspired the next generation.
I honestly don't think Americans understand how big this is for the country. I see you trollz saying, Duh but aren't you a Knicks fan?! This is about a country coming together w/ the help of a sport that was an afterthought not long ago. I tried to explain that to @rosenbergradio pic.twitter.com/lVQBxBrkwQ- Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) May 31, 2019
I had shivers after watching Montreal's Ariel Halwani break down the significance of the Raptors' success. It takes you on a trip down memory lane, as it speaks to the work and building that has been done in our basketball community for decades and the continuous push today by those that love and are still contributing. This victory is for our communities coast-to-coast. From Vancouver to Atlantic Canada, the country at large has embraced this beautiful game.
#raptors one game away from the #nbafinals and the moment we had a surprise scrum with @drake @CityNews @680NEWS pic.twitter.com/TgNeVfzw5I- Lindsay Dunn (@LindsayDunnTV) May 24, 2019
Drake said it best, "The Toronto Raptors are like a college sports team, I promise you."
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.
Tariq Sbiet is the Founder and CEO of NorthPole Hoops, a Canadian basketball business dedicated to the growth of the game in Canada.