Nickolas Loza | June 14th, 2019
Wow is all I can say. As a person who lives in Canada and has people who said “This is the most important moment in Canadian Sports since the Toronto Blue Jays were in the World Series 26 years ago”, I cannot overstate how much this championship means to the country of Canada and its loyal and well-deserving fans. The raw emotion spewing from “Jurassic Park”, the Raptors fan hangout area in Toronto, was electric and fascinating to experience. All I can say to this championship is “Oh Canada”! In this article we will go over the journey the Raptors took to get here and the trials they experienced, through the perspective of a Canadian.
The Beginning of the Season, the Season’s Progression and the Trade that Changed the Franchise
On July 18th, 2018, the Toronto Raptors made the ultimate gamble by trading for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, but they gave up a king’s ransom in return. They gave up the franchise’s best player in DeMar DeRozan, and a couple other pieces. People were outraged, one of my professors stated that it was the most ridiculous trade he had ever seen because he didn’t want to be traded to Toronto, he didn’t want to play up north, he wasn’t even fully healthy yet and he would have to manage his playing time because of his injuries. This was all true, but it ended up paying off in the end. Over the first 20 games, he played he averaged 26.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 2.9 APG. The Raptors by the end of the season went 41-19 in the games in which he played, and was one of the most impactful players in the NBA, just as he was pre-injury. He led the Raptors to a 58-24 record and the second seed in the playoffs.
The Doubt from the Media and the Outsiders
Although the Raptors were the second seed in the playoffs, the media had their doubts, and for good reasons too. The Raptors had past failures in the playoffs that haunted them, mostly to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but with LeBron James going to the Western Conference, they no longer had to deal with him anymore on the road to the Finals, but the media still doubted them and their ability to get it done in the playoffs. The media stoked this hate, mostly faces like Colin Cowherd and Stephen A. Smith who were skeptical of this team’s durability and versatility outside of Kawhi Leonard, but their doubts were not warranted considering the Raptors had one of the best benches in the NBA.
The Eastern Conference Playoffs
In the first round, they won against the Magic 4-1 with ease. They coasted through that series against the Orlando Magic, and they booked a date with the Philadelphia 76ers in the Semifinals. This series didn’t even go close to as smooth as the prior series, the Raptors went down 2-1, but fought hard and forced a Game 7 where one of the most iconic shots in NBA history happened. With the game tied 90-90 with four seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Raptors inbounded to Kawhi Leonard who ran the ball to the corner near the Raptors bench, faded away out of bounds, and the ball took four fateful bounces on the rim and went in. The Raptors home court crowd went crazy, and the 76ers went home on one of the most iconic game winners in NBA History. The next round went by with more turmoil, the Milwaukee Bucks went up 2-0 against the Raptors, and everyone in the media started talking about the Raptors choking, and everything like that but they locked in and won four straight games in order to advance to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
The Squad the Raptors took to the NBA Finals
After 24 long years, the Raptors were finally in the Finals. They took a squad made up of no top ten draft picks to the NBA Finals, and were the first team to accomplish this feat. The core players of this team were PF Pascal Siakam, PG Kyle Lowry, and SF Kawhi Leonard, but the key contributors outside of those are Danny Green, Fred VanVleet, and midseason acquisition Marc Gasol. This team of ragtag players faced a dynasty in the Golden State Warriors who were injured and battered, and they were ready for the challenge.
The NBA Finals
The NBA Finals were cast in a light of injury, the Warriors were without arguably the best player in the NBA in Kevin Durant, and without DeMarcus Cousins, but the Warriors faced the challenge of being short-handed with the firepower of the Splash Bros of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, and their elite bench and role players. The Raptors through four games were up 3-1 and still somehow faced doubts. The Warriors won Game 5 on the road to force a Game 6 and people in the media said that the Raptors were going to choke it away. The Raptors went into Oracle Arena and won in its last game before the Warriors move across the Bay to a new stadium. Kawhi Leonard took home Finals MVP and the Raptors won the series 4-2. This is an amazing moment in Canadian sports history. It’s the first championship of any kind Canada has seen since the 93′ Blue Jays, and the scene in Toronto was crazy. Nearly a million people packed the streets to celebrate, and nationwide we are all proud of our Raptors defeating a dynasty and ending an era of Warrior dominance. This is truly a magical moment.
I hope you all enjoyed!
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images