The first post I ever wrote at Raptors Republic came on July 21, 2009. It was titled “Where does Demar DeRozan fit?” and was a post-Summer League analysis of the raw, athletic rookie the Toronto Raptors had just selected ninth overall. It was…not very good, and because of weird caching issues over time, the photo header is now somehow Steph Curry. In the nine years that followed, I wrote 3,060 other posts here, which feels like a lot. Most of them probably mentioned DeRozan somewhere within, and plenty were about him specifically. It feels at least somewhat fitting that, at least for the time being, my time at RR overlapped entirely with DeRozan’s. I appreciate tidy bookends, I guess.
What I’m trying to say is: Today is my last day with Raptors Republic.
This is really difficult to announce, but despite my protests and original plans to just sort of disappear, Zarar and Sam are making me formally say goodbye. It was about a decade ago that Henry Abbott tapped those two to join forces and start RR as the Toronto arm of (the now defunct) ESPN True Hoop Network, and they brought me aboard shortly after. The debt of gratitude I owe them for doing so is more or less unspeakable – for the first few years, RR was an outlet to see if I even enjoyed writing, to see if I knew basketball well enough to write about it, and to see if an independent self-published team blog could succeed as the industry changed. (I had been writing elsewhere for fun a few years at that point, just not with a real audience or consistency.) Were it not for RR, it seems pretty unlikely I ever would have gone the FVV route and bet on myself, leaving a better job and more secure industry to try writing full time back in 2013.
About three years ago, Sam and Zarar handed me the keys as I let that bet ride, trying to see if I could make it work being a full-time independent. While I’ve freelanced a lot on top of this to make sure I could do things like eat, RR has been my primary focus and my home. The growth we’ve seen as a site in that time has been tremendous, and in that sense I owe the same debt of gratitude to the community and readership here. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I boast about RR being one of the best single team sites on the internet, considering our lack of affiliation with any network during that time. Not to pull the curtain back too much, but we consistently average over a million readers per-month at this point, and while there are difficulties scaling that traffic into revenue as an independent, that feels like an incredible accomplishment for all of us here.
That momentum and the factors that have made those numbers possible are why I’m able to leave with the utmost confidence that RR is going to continue on just fine. It’s the community that makes this place what it is, anyway, and we have such a ridiculously deep and talented staff of writers, the content is going to stay just as strong (if slightly less voluminous). I don’t really want to start listing people off because we have 15-20 people who figure to contribute semi-regularly, but rest assured there’s such a great mix of talent, analysis, and personality on the staff for 2018-19. We’ll still have the previews, recaps, quick reactions, columns, and podcasts that you’re used to, I just won’t be writing as much of them. Nobody is technically stepping into my role as managing editor for right now, but the group approach worked for us before 2015-16 and it’ll work again now.
And I’ll still be around, though not in any official capacity. Organizing, helping, lurking, making sure Will is behaving, whatever. This has been home for so long that it’s weird to think of not writing here. As difficult as the decision was to come to, it’s time for me to try to take another step in my career, getting outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself in a different way. Awkwardly, I can’t really say what I’ll be doing next yet. That announcement will come next week. I’m sure it won’t be really hard to figure out. I can at least say that I’ll still be writing about the Raptors plenty, that my regular columns/features/mailbags/explainers that I do here will be coming with me, and that I’ll still be able to do one of the things I liked best about running RR, which is giving some really great writers more opportunities. I really hope that all of you continue to follow me and my work with what comes next, and continue to support RR as well.
I wanted to take this post both to say goodbye so that I don’t just disappear and people wonder what’s up and to thank everyone here for following along, reading, and making this such a terrific community for Raptors fans. It’s been a really fun nine years, especially the last three, and I quite legitimately don’t know what I’d be doing right now were it not for Zarar and Sam and Nils, all of the great writers I get to work with here, and the RR community. So thank you, sincerely, and I’ll at the very least be back for Will’s NBA Finals preview podcast.