It is a very exciting time to be in Toronto, for the first time in franchise history the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA finals and it’s a surreal feeling for many long-time fans. Every corner of our city is beaming with pride to have the only Canadian team in the NBA going up against the Golden State Warriors- who have won 6 championships including the last two.
The Raptors are clearly the underdog in this series and they have an entire country rooting for them.
This is a significant moment in Canadian sports history. It indicates a shift in our city and the way in which Toronto is perceived in the NBA. Historically, Canada has been known for its dominance in hockey but now basketball is also becoming another outlet to showcase our Canadian pride and our multiculturalism.
As one area fan points out, “this signifies a shift in thinking. No longer would we be looked at as ‘that Canadian team’ but we will be looked at as THE championship Canadian team in the NBA. It would bring a different thought process to all those that just think ‘Canada = Hockey.’”
Dale Mahabir is a lifelong Raptors fan and Downsview local. He describes his excitement over this milestone for the team and what it means to him, “having the Raptors in the finals means everything as a lifelong fan. Since the beginning, we as Raptors fans have been too accepting of consolation prizes: celebrating things like a regular season win over the 72-10 Chicago Bulls in the 90s to celebrating other consolation prizes like having a winning season, making it to the playoffs, winning a round, or getting to the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF). To have them in the ‘final dance’ is surreal. To be able to witness not only a city, but an entire country (since the departure of the Grizzles to Memphis) band together and simultaneously cheer the Raptors on can only be described as a surreal feeling.”
Dale, his brother and their friends have been watching the games at different pubs in the area and describes it as “ A tremendous feeling to know that we are all there together rooting for the same team and hoping for the same outcome, it’s quite the bonding experience. When the Raptors won the final game against the Milwaukee Bucks we were all hugging and cheering, everyone at the pub- even people we had just met.”
The Milwaukee series was one of overcoming adversity for the Raptors. They were down 2-0 to Milwaukee at the beginning but did this not discourage the team nor the fans, and eventually they became one of only six teams in NBA history to win a conference final after losing their first two games. Winning this series against the Bucks truly set the tone for the Championships and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and passion that is felt all throughout the city.
How incredible to have our beloved Raptors finally taking centre stage and making us proud of our city and our country. We the North!