An Open Letter to Masai Ujiri:
Dear Mr. Ujiri,
My name is Noah Burshtein, and for the last 18 years (since their inception), I have been an avid, and die-hard Toronto Raptors fan. I grew up on a steady diet of Damon Stoudemire rookie cards, Doug Christie three-pointers, and Vince Carter jerseys. My heart rose in my chest when Vince’s three clanked off back iron in Philly, and was crushed when McGrady decided he wanted to be the star of his own play elsewhere. I once tried to rationalize cheering for both Eric and Aaron Williams, and have spent hours googling potential diets for Lonny Baxter (note: none worked). I choose the Raptors over the Leafs, hardwood over ice, and the Dunk Contest over the Winter Classic. I am, in short, a Raptors fan.
And I, on behalf of Raptors Nation, have a plea.
As someone who is well-versed in both basketball lore and modern-day analytics, it has become quite clear to me that there are but two places that a contemporary NBA franchise should deign to reside in the standings: the top 5, or the bottom 5. Having lived in Toronto my whole life, I understand the difficulties in getting NBA free agents to choose to come to Canada. Our tax system takes more of their income, our weather doesn’t mimic Miami or LA, and our place in the eye of the national media makes major sponsorship deals difficult. I get it. There is no blame to lay there. Yet there is no denying that finishing in the no-mans-land that is the space between the top and bottom 5 only facilitates further mediocrity.
While I am sure you understand this concept of either “going for it” or “bottoming out,” I am not sure you understand the state of the Raptors fan base’s mindset right now. In this area, I admit, I have the advantage. I’m out in the stands, I’m on the internet, and I’m among friends in this regard. Masai, Raptors fans are prepared to lose. They are prepared to suffer. And they are prepared to exercise patience. We all understand.
We know what this year’s draft is. And we know it goes farther than Andrew.
Yes, we do all sit in our living rooms and stream Kansas games in hopes of catching a glimpse of brilliance from Torontonian Andrew Wiggins, who we all connect to through someone’s brother’s cousin’s uncle etc. But we, as a fan base, also watch a lot more college basketball than you might expect. We’re enraptured by Jabari Parker. We adore the ferocity of Julius Randle. We admire the collected heart of Aaron Gordon, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, and Dante Exum. And there’s more. We know that this year’s draft is the best in a decade. And we want in.
To win in this league one needs a superstar, one we don’t yet have. And we’re willing to endure losses to get one. We willingly watch Dwane Casey destroy Jonas’ confidence. We admire his ability to mismanage the end of close games. And we implore teams like the Warriors to overcome 27 point deficits. All in the name of loss.
Masai, this is a plea. Pull the trigger. Let Kyle compete elsewhere. Let Rudy wander to his next inefficient destination. This is Raptors Nation, saying we are okay with losing. We want the next Vince Carter, the one we grew up idolizing, the one who single-handedly put our city on the NBA map. And we will wait for him.
Welcome back to Toronto Masai. We hope you one day are the man to lead us to the promised land.