We’re Canada’s basketball team, not a basketball team for Canadians.

The Toronto Raptors capped off arguably their most successful season in franchise history four months ago. An surprisingly upstart team led by breakout campaigns from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan set a franchise-high in wins, pushing the team into the post-season for the first time in six years. The squad came within a Lowry floater away from winning their second-ever playoff series, nearly upsetting a well-stocked Brooklyn Nets team in the process. By all accounts, it was a very good year.

This offseason, general manager Masai Ujiri successfully retained all of his key free-agents, including highly sought-after point guard Kyle Lowry. Although Lowry ultimately ended up with a deal nearing full market value, there’s something to be said for a star opting to remain in Toronto long-term. As much as anything else — perpetual losers, where Vince Carter started his career — star players leaving in droves is a cursed insignia stitched into the team’s fabric. In that regard, Lowry’s return is a loose strand, symbolizing the hopeful unraveling of the Raptors’ patchy history.

And yet, with so much hard-earned momentum on its side, many fans (captained by members of the media) remain ardent in another chase altogether, shamelessly angling for fantastical moves to acquire Andrew Wiggins. Blow up the squad to land Wiggins. Trade picks for Anthony Bennett, or Tyler Ennis, or Andrew Nicholson, or Corey Joseph? Why not take a flyer on Melvin Ejim or Myck fucking Kabongo? When will Maple Jordan come home like LeBron James?

It’s nauseating.

Put aside for a second that Wiggins is largely unattainable. Who cares about the harsh realities of the CBA when the flimsy narrative of Wiggins coming home is so easy to parlay? Who cares if the franchise is building towards a perpetual contender reliant on continuity and a team-first identity? Why doesn’t Masai deal three-fifths of the starting lineup for Wiggins? Hey, not sure if you knew, but Wiggins is Canadian, eh?

I get the fascination with Wiggins, I really do. If your argument is that this current team has a limited ceiling, and that it lacks a pivotal transcendent talent, it makes some sense to trade for Wiggins. There isn’t a clear-cut future All-NBA caliber player on the team, and while youngsters like DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas could conceivably reach that level in due time, Wiggins boasts A-grade prospect cache and boundless athleticism. The physical foundation for a future star is there.

And yes, it would be exciting to have a home-grown star leading Canada’s only team. Unlike previous episodes with Chris Bosh and Carter, Wiggins’ ties to Canada should grant the Raptors a leg up in negotiations for once. If Lowry sticking around is a loose thread in checkered fabric, Wiggins developing into a full-fledged superstar in Toronto would be a red-and-white satin spreadsheet to cover up the hideous identity of old.

But where I get off the boat is when fans go overboard with the second idea. It’s one thing to hope for a rebuild, but Wiggins’ talent alone doesn’t account for the fervor of trade speculation. There’s almost no talk from fans in the acquisition of Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid — two players of roughly equivalent draft standing. Fans want Wiggins because he’s Canadian first and foremost. His talent comes second.

That’s my beef with the fetish for Wiggins — the Raptors are Canada’s basketball team, not a basketball team for Canadians. The franchise exists to eventually win championships, not to act as a safe refuge for Canadian basketball players. It’s not up to the Raptors to be the face of Canadian basketball or inspire Canadian youngsters to try their hands at the sport. That’s what Canada Basketball is for. The Raptors are an NBA team and the goal of NBA teams is to win NBA games.

If the thinking behind a play for Wiggins — or whichever Canadian player — is that he’s the best option to help the Raptors win, make the move. I don’t care if he’s Canadian, American, Spanish, Brazilian, Argentinian, Chinese, Haitian, Jamaican or a dude from the Monstars; if he can help the Raptors win, I’m all for it. Citizenship be damned.

  • afrocarter

    I think there is some value in having a homegrown talent on your team, especially if said talent is of the patriotic sort. Is there any doubt, for example, that Lebron will play his heart out for Cleveland? Is there any doubt that he’ll lay it all on the line for that team? When a talent plays for their hometown team, they’re just that much more invested (theoretically speaking).

    That being said, it would be ridiculous to blow up the team for Wiggins. Even though the kid is Canadian, a clear majority of the players on the team currently love Toronto (and the Raptors organization) to such a degree that they’re pretty much Canadians anyway. I don’t think Vasquez would ever leave if given the chance; Amir is a certified Torontonian, end of story; DeMar has spent his entire adult life here. These guys are invested.

    (As an aside, I thought this piece was going to be a criticism of the epic and awesome ad campaign lol)

  • DanH

    I for one place Wiggins far ahead of Parker or Embiid, the first because Parker will never be able to play effective D in the NBA and he’ll fall short of the power game Melo has to make up for it, and the latter because of the decent likelihood he ends up another Oden. Nothing to do with him being Canadian.

  • SR

    Having a homegrown kid lead your team is a fun story, but that’s it. What’s even more fun is winning basketball. That’s priority A, B, and C.

  • albertan_10

    Are the Monstars available? Why haven’t we offered them max contracts yet!? :)

  • StrikerAI

    Why bother trading for Wiggins? If we get Durant, Wiggins will come rushing here as fast as he can when he becomes an FA, lol đŸ˜€

  • Charanvir

    That’s not really a problem, look at it this way, how are Raptors fan treated as, a joke. When Kevin Durant said that the Raptors were his favourite team, he proceeded to get laughed at, were the 4th biggest market in north america and were mocked. We as the advertisement says, outsiders. However we should embrace that, thats were the #WeTheNorth comes in, that’s why it worked so well

    However your problem is that with the fact fans want wiggins, guess what, EVERYONE wants wiggins, we just so happen to be form his hometown. No one ever says that KD to Washington is ridiculous, no one really said LeBron going back to cleveland so ridiculous, fans like talent from the local area. And no one since the playoffs has even uttered the word rebuild. No one wants Wiggins if were gonna suck for anther 4-5 years after just making the playoffs.

    Also let fans have there fun, I consider myself a more intelligent hardcore fan and I want wiggins, i fantasies about it but I’m don’t think it actually gonna happen, anyone with half a brain don’t really think it’s gonna happen. Some do think “BA GOD HE’S COMIN TO THE 6! #WETHENORTH” but most of us have our personal thoughts about those type of fans. The ones think playoff time we can stop LeBron James and the Heat last season. Just let us have our fun, stop being a party popper.

    • LuckyMystery

      The guy with the other half of the brain writes this jibberish

      • Charanvir

        excuse me?

        • LuckyMystery

          Well what you wrote is pretty indecipherable.

          The Word “Were”, cant be used every time a different word looks similar to it. Just saying.

          • Charanvir

            Grammar isn’t my strong suit.

  • RobertArchibald

    Nice read Will, but I have to disagree with your belief that the Raptors have no responsibility to inspire Canadian basketball players. First off, Canada basketball is not important in the eyes of most basketball fans. Yes, the program is improving, but I don’t believe kids grow up hoping to play for Canada basketball. They want to play in the NBA. Secondly, the goal of an NBA franchise is not to win games, it is to make money. It’s a business first. Any young kids the Raptors inspire to take up basketball have the potential to become a lifelong fan of the team. More fans, brings more credibility, brings more revenue, brings better players, brings winning, brings championships. Teams making money have a responsibility to give back to their communities, imo.

    Yes, the team has no responsibility to bring in Canadian players, but it would serve their main goal of making money to do so, at least in theory. If teams don’t recognize the influence they have on their city, and in this case country, I see it as irresponsible and bad business. FWIW I’m not on board to leverage everything for someone like Wiggins, but I do understand the appeal of bringing in a homegrown kid to inspire today’s Canadian kids.

  • golden

    William: you’re barking up the wrong tree here.

    Why are fans wanting Wiggins and not Embiid and Parker? Embiid is already injured and could be another Oden – that’s pretty obvious to understand the risk. Parker doesn’t play defense and many feel he is closer to his ceiling. Wiggins? Anyone who watched KU play last year knows that the Jayhawks offense was completely un-suited for Wiggins style of play. And yet, a “raw” Wiggins averaged only 2 PPG less than a polished, “NBA ready” Parker, who was THE central focus on Duke. The point here is upside and 2-way play-making capability. Toss in the fact that Wiggins is an electrifying player, who fans would pay money to see, and it’s a no-brainer. In fact, Wiggins was the number one draw in the Vegas Summer League, but so guess that must have been Canadian tourists on vacation? Wiggins being Canadian is the cherry-on-top, not the sundae.

    • sleepz

      +1

    • DDayLewis

      I agree with your last sentence whole heatedly, and if everyone else feels the same, perhaps this was posted on the wrong forum

    • Heyjoe

      I would personally take a risk on Embid over taking Wiggins myself. But that’s only because I have faith that Embid will dominate the league in a few years time and also due to the position he plays vs. the position Wiggins plays. Almost every (if not every) player in the NBA gets a fairly serious injury at some point and I think the comparisons to Oden are entirely unwarranted. I wouldn’t be surprised that the Cavs only passed on Embid because they had planned to trade Wiggins from the get go whereas Embid would have probably had less value as a trade piece.

  • Roarque

    “It’s not up to the Raptors to be the face of Canadian basketball or inspire Canadian youngsters to try their hands at the sport. That’s what Canada Basketball is for.”
    Insightful.

  • http://www.gamervets.com/ M1GO

    The way I see it, the #WeTheNorth campaign isn’t really looking to appeal to the hardcore hoopheads. It’s a play to grab the casual fans, the patriotic but relatively indifferent Canadian non-sports fans, the disenfranchised Leafs Supporters, the water cooler sports conversationalists, and the Jays fans who have nothing to do in the winter.

    Whenever I see someone on my Facebook feed who still dreams of nabbing Wiggins in the future, I automatically assume that they’re not really fans of the Raptors.

    If people were really interested in cheering on their hometown heroes, there’s a perfectly good up-and-coming Team Canada too…

  • why

    The thing about LeBron ‘coming home’ vs. a Wiggins potentially ‘coming home’ is that LeBron is coming back to a franchise he had a long history with before so rudely departing. Are there other examples of star players ‘coming home’ to a franchise they had no previous relatioship with?

  • DDayLewis

    A few things:

    I’m not saying Wiggins isn’t a good player, and that people are stupid to want him. As I noted in the article, there’s plenty of reasons to want Wiggins aside from his nationality.

    But let’s be real. The sheer volume of attention and interest for Wiggins has a lot to do with the fact that he’s Canadian. Maybe not so much on this hardcore forum, but for the casual fan at the office water cooler? He’s Canadian, eh?

    • golden

      “The sheer volume of attention and interest for Wiggins has a lot to do with the fact that he’s Canadian.”

      And therein lies the flaw in your logic: Wiggins is the most hyped basketball prospect since Lebron. And he was hyped way earlier and much bigger in the U.S. than here. In fact, I have hockey buddies here in T.O. who still don’t know who Wiggins is.

      This topic sure as heck isn’t deserving of a rant, much less calling out the fanbase based on a faulty premise.

      • DDayLewis

        I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t think many fans lust over Wiggins in large part because he’s Canadian. Watch Sportsnet when they run features on the NBA. The maple boner angle is jerked to death.

        • golden

          That ‘boner’ is just normal national pride for a Canadian athlete who is rising to the top in his/her chosen field. We’re getting that same ‘boner’ for Milos Raonic and especially Eugenie Bouchard. I don’t understand exactly what your problem is with that?

          Not to psycho-analyze, but perhaps you’re having a hard time accepting and believing that a non-hockey playing Canadian might actually have a chance to be worthy of the ‘Next One” hype in a traditionally US dominated sport. It could be your own Canadian inferiority complex coming through here.

          • DDayLewis

            I have no qualms about a Canadian rising to the top, however unconventional it may be. I just want the focus of fans to be on team success. The same for the Raptors. Winning over everything.

            • golden

              What’s unconventional about the way Wiggins is rising to the top. It didn’t happen overnight. He has been ranked as an elite prospect for his age since he was 14 or 15.

              And are you saying that Wiggins wouldn’t contribute to winning? There’s a reason more NBA teams tanked for this year’s draft than ever before? Have we forgotten riggin’ for Wiggins already? That had absolutely nothing to do with the Raptors’ fanbase.

              Also by your same logic, is Ujiri desperately wanting to draft Tyler Ennis because MU has that same ‘maple boner’ and doesn’t care about winning?

              • DDayLewis

                You’re getting confused. I meant unconventional in reference to your Canadian rising in a sport comment.

                And nowhere did I ever say Wiggins wont contribute to winning. Nor am I asserting that Canadians can’t win, nor that it’s a hopeless endeavor to chase Canadian players.

                My point is quite simple: prioritize winning above all else, including citizenship.

  • Roarque

    Canada has for quite some time now provided the best players for the NHL. Canadians don’t seem overly vexed that Sidney Crosby plays for Pittsburgh although Torontonians openly smirk at Sid being forced to live there. As long as he can play for Team Canada in International competitions then we’re all just fine.
    See what I did there with Pittsburgh?

  • Roarque

    That’s not really a problem. Look at it this way. How are Raptors fan treated? As a joke. When Kevin Durant said that the Raptors were his favourite team, he proceeded to get laughed at. We’re the 4th biggest market in North America and we’re mocked. We, as the advertisement says, are outsiders. However we should embrace that; that’s were the “#WeTheNorth” comes in. That’s why it worked so well

    However, your problem is with the fact that fans want Wiggins, guess what, EVERYONE wants wiggins, we just so happen to be form his hometown. No one ever says that KD to Washington is ridiculous, no one really said LeBron going back to cleveland so ridiculous, fans like talent from the local area. And no one since the playoffs has even uttered the word rebuild. No one wants Wiggins if were gonna suck for anther 4-5 years after just making the playoffs.

    Also let fans have their fun, I consider myself a more intelligent hardcore fan and I want wiggins, i fantasies about it but I’m don’t think it actually gonna happen, anyone with half a brain don’t really think it’s gonna happen. Some do think “BA GOD HE’S COMIN TO THE 6! #WETHENORTH” but most of us have our personal thoughts about those type of fans. The ones think playoff time we can stop LeBron James and the Heat last season. Just let us have our fun, stop being a party popper.

  • Wes mantooth

    This is a really stupid post. A campaign that unified all it’s fans is nothing but positive.
    A huge reason why raps fans are clamouring for AW is because he said it’s where he wants to play. If any future star said that they’d be just as wanted. Like u said , we’ve had a problem attracting stars so that’s why this stirs up a frenzy. I think it has less to do with him being Canadian then you think. If Jabari said it then we’d be team Jabari.
    Also all hometown fans want there guy to come home. KD in Washington bron in Ohio.
    We the north is an amazing campaign that created excitement all over the league. Raps are doing everything right right now. This post is wrong on every level

  • Will

    I agree with your point exactly. I’ve never been one to get overly excited about a guy who’s never even played a game yet, so maybe that’s my problem. But the amount of hype Wiggins is getting is ridiculous. If he pans out and we can get him with a trade or free agency in a few years, great. But there are fans willing to give up their first born child to get him.

  • Ion66

    My real issue with #WeTheNorth, is that it’s created by marketing types, and to my impression, is loosely based on Game of Thrones language. It’s not as blatant as #WigginsIsComing, or #TheBasketballTeamNorthOfTheWall. or anything, but it never felt honest to me. Having a team that has a name inspired by a movie, being hyped by a line that feels like it’s derived from an HBO series never got me going.

  • Garrett Hinchey

    “The Raptors are an NBA team and the goal of NBA teams is to win NBA games.”

    Will, you know how much respect I have for you as a writer, but I have to disagree with this statement.

    Sure, ultimately, what every fan hopes the goal of their franchise is is to win championships. It’s what keeps the hardcores around during lean years. However, the overriding goal of ownership, such as it is in every other private corporation, is to make money. Success brings fans and eyeballs, which ultimately brings ticket, merch, and ad sales, and lots of dollars.

    The Raptors are in a position where this push for fans happens to collide with the altruistic goal of increasing interest in basketball in Canada, which also happens to collide with inspiring our young players. No, it’s not up to the Raptors to be the face of Canada basketball, but in their pursuit of a country-wide fan base (their biggest competitive advantage against the other franchises) it’s certainly within their best interests to be.

    Now, there are multiple ways to do this. Winning is one. If you win, you will be recognized, and you will gain more fans – we saw that last year. However, catering to patriotism is another very viable, very effective one. Canadians love to get behind their national team – it’s when this country is most engaged in sports, and why hockey is so huge here (because it also happens to be the sport where Canadians kick ass). Could you imagine a Raptors team led by a Canadian superstar travelling down south every few days to take on the big American machine that is the rest of the NBA? Could you imagine them winning? You think LeBron going to the Cavs had fans fired up?

    I, like you, don’t think we should be pursuing Wiggins (or any other Canadian player) just for patriotism’s sake. But if you can somehow balance success on court with that opportunity (like if Ennis slipped to us in the draft, or if Wiggins does indeed become a superstar), then you have to understand why it would not only be clearly in the Raptors’ best interests as a franchise, but also bigger than just rooting for another NBA team for fans/Canadians.

    Basically what I’m saying is F the haters, I love #WeTheNorth, and if you think it’s not in the team’s best interest as well as the fans/Canada Basketball’s, you’re kidding yourself.

    • DDayLewis

      I agree. It’s all about measures of degrees. There is value in what you say – a Canadian leading the way, ancillory benefits to team Canada – is fine in moderation. But winning is first and foremost, by a wide margin.

      • Garrett Hinchey

        Of course, the true gold mine will come when winning and all those other things go hand in hand. I think that’s part of the reason why there’s so much media fascination with Wiggins, as it’s the first time it could conceivably happen (Nash in his prime was never a possibility).

        I’d imagine if Wiggins turns out to be a bust, all this furor will die down. That’s why you don’t hear similar things about Bennett. So in a roundabout way, it is about winning. Just winning with some national pride attached.

        • DDayLewis

          Someone below summarized my thinking quite aptly. Winning with some Canadians is the cherry atop the sundae, not the sundae itself.

          • Garrett Hinchey

            I think we’re on the same page here. Just to different extents.

  • robertparish00

    Problem with We the North is that it emphasizes it gets cold in Canada! That was supposed to be one of the reasons Toronto can’t attract Free Agents.

    • Raymond

      Come on, its so funny, If some people linked Toronto and Canada = cold, should we delete “Toronto” on the jersey as well? I am who I am, we might have difficulty to attract some FA to Toronto, it doesn’t mean we have to evade or contempt ourselves. I am head high to say, I am a Canadian. so do u?

      • robertparish00

        Wow, you take We the North to heart. Good for you! Sorry for implying that North means cold. I always was taught the further north you go the colder it gets. I also apologize for commenting free agents prefer to play in warm weather on a basketball blog I must not be as Canadian as you.

        • AboutTime

          Ever get slapped around for your mouth? Raymond supports embracing our difference instead of endlessly trying to suck up and “fit in”. You got nothing but smartass to that? Pity when Canadians feel the need to be the same instead of taking pride in our difference.

          • robertparish00

            Are you talking about embracing that it is cold in the winter? Is that the big difference we should be proud of? Dude, Minnesota is colder than Toronto and further North. Maybe you should move there and become a Timberwolves fan so you can really take pride in in that difference. Annndd no I haven’t been slapped around for my mouth, why do you ask?

            • AboutTime

              First. you’re the “wanting to suck up and be like them” dude that translates North to Cold. If you haven’t noticed, trying to “fit in”, or trying to say we’re south of Minnesota, hasn’t changed a single perception in forever, so why not say We The North (as in fuck you idiots that don’t know better), and embrace our difference (a different country, most north of most the US, eh), with some pride, instead of continuing for another decade of trying to suck up with “it’s not that bad up here” type shit.

              Why do I ask? Because you showed an uncalled for smartass mouth on the internet, and wondered if you got away with it in your neighbourhood. You wouldn’t have in mine.

              As for your move to Minny suggestion, fuck you too.

              • robertparish00

                It is not a translation, it is a synonym NORTH…cold, frozen, polar. Look it up below.
                http://thesaurus.com/browse/north
                So I guess everyone should think North=Cold. And I do not have as much a smartass mouth as a smart brain. We the North, Pound the Rock, Hustle and Heart are all just marketing ploys but keep thinking it is the best thing ever.

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  • Will
    • DDayLewis

      I saw that! Must be a slow news day. Very flattered nonetheless.

  • sadwriter

    I’m really starting to lose faith in the writers at raptors republic… might as well be vice with this sort of non-sensical, not well thought through, opinion based rubbish.

  • jakdripr

    Notice how no one’s clamouring for Anthony Bennet or Tristan Thompson? People want Wiggins because he’s talented AND Canadian, not just cuz of the latter. I do agree that people go a little overboard suggestion we should trade Demar and Ross for him, but saying the only reason people are interesting in him is because he’s Canadian is inaccurate.

    • DDayLewis

      Except people are clamoring for Thompson and Bennett and every other Canadian out there.

      • jakdripr

        Really? Well in that case ignore everything I said.

        • DDayLewis

          Lol sorry this is not getting anywhere. We must have different impressions of the fan base.

          • jakdripr

            I agreed with you….

  • JunkYardDog

    The real problem with ” We the North” is the fact that the Raptors have spent 15 years trying to convince American players and fans that Toronto , despite its stereotypes around the league is not colder than New York or Chicago nor does it have a worse nightlife. Yet the slogan We The North isolates the Raptors from the rest of the league after they spent years trying to fit in. ” We The North” adds to the ‘Canada is so cold and different’ sterotype and makes any 18 year old draft pick or free agent not want to come here. Just ask T-Mac what his first opinion was of Toronto as an 18 year old , there is a quote of him saying that he felt very uncomfortable in a new country with new weather at first which is how anyone that has never played in Toronto would feel. The slogan does more harm than good in my opinion.

    • AboutTime

      Well, the perception hasn’t changed for many, so that 15 years of trying to “fit in” hasn’t worked very well. So, just like the “fuck Brooklyn”, this is a “fuck stereotypes” embrace of our difference in location. We’re different in more ways than location, but why not embrace it instead of trying to “fit in” like some suckhole kid brother.

  • Rap fan 2

    Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being nationalistic especially with us easy go lucky Canadians. Go Canada go!!

    But you’re right. When it comes to the business of running the Toronto Raptors, the NBA team, you simply want all the best talent and fit you can get your hands on regardless of nationality. However, if two players have similar game and one is a Canadian I think having at least one Canadian on the team could come handy in terms of marketing strategy.

    With our buddy the honorable Sir Andrew Wiggins, he’s made it to the NBA but it’s just the start of a totally new set of goals and ambitions. He’s needs to prove himself again by climbing towards the top of the NBA talent charts. He’s a rookie and needs to earn the respect again. Let’s be patient and give him time to adapt and develop. However as a diehard Raptor fan, when Andrew Wiggins is primed and ready and hits free agency I want him to play for the Toronto Raptors!!! As a Canadian, I want Andrew Wiggins to succeed and do well no matter where he plays.

  • Brian L

    #WeTheNorth feels like a shameless derivation of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Doesn’t the King in this said North die a pretty grisly death?

  • Sean

    Well said

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