The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, making them the first major Toronto sports team to make a final since the Blue Jays in 1993. The city of Toronto and the country of Canada are as excited and passionate as they have been in decades, and people from all over are hopping on the Raptors’ bandwagon.
Usually, people talk about bandwagons as a bad thing — like the people in the Bay Area who became Warriors fans after the team signed Kevin Durant — but in Toronto, we are proud of our basketball team and happy to have new fans on board. Whether you’re from the GTA or an American city that doesn’t want a Warriors three-peat; whether you’re a Maple Leafs or Blue Jays fan who just wants to be happy or new to sports altogether; the following is a helpful guide — with fun and serious tips — for those hopping on the Raptors’ bandwagon.
None of this is possible without DeMar DeRozan
Kyle Lowry recently called Raptors fans “the best fans in the world” after the city went absolutely wild after securing our spot in the finals, but it hasn’t always been this way. DeRozan helped make the Raptors relevant, both in Toronto and abroad. He led the team to the best stretch in franchise history, including six straight playoff appearances and winning four playoff series’. That stretch coincided with Toronto becoming a basketball city, helping a generation of fans fall in love with the game (shoutout to ex-coach Dwane Casey, too, who helped develop the young talents like Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam).
On top of being responsible for helping grow the fanbase, DeRozan’s personal development is the only reason the Raptors were able to trade for Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) in the first place. Since being drafted to the Raptors in 2009 as the No. 9 pick, DeRozan slowly developed into a four-time all-star by adding new dimensions to his game every season. After decades of superstars like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh wanting out of Toronto, DeRozan displayed his love for the city through his work ethic. Without DeRozan becoming so good, the Raptors wouldn’t have been able to trade for Leonard and the fan base wouldn’t be this big or passionate.
How to avoid being “that person” at a Raptors viewing event?
Sometimes when I watch games with my mother around she will see the score and, regardless of how much time is remaining, she’ll declare a winner based on a five-point lead. Don’t be that person. For long-suffering Raptors fans, that person just increases stress and anxiety levels, because we are used to everything that could go wrong going wrong. This year is different, of course, with Leonard single-handedly clawing his way back into games, but sometimes it’s better to not make confident statements if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Basketball is a game of runs, and there is no better team than the Warriors and making quick comebacks. Sometimes less is more when it comes to talking during the game. Silence is a virtue, after all.
Do the Raptors have the best player in basketball?
“Who is the best player in basketball?” is a question you are going to hear asked a lot during the NBA Finals, with some people pointing to the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard as the best candidate.
After all, Leonard has been the best player throughout the playoffs — especially since Kevin Durant went down with a calf injury on May 8th — leading the Raptors to the NBA Finals while putting up historically good numbers offensively and guarding the best player on the opposing team. Carrying the load on offense and defense is pretty much unheard of, but there is something to be said about longevity. Leonard only has one championship trophy and zero MVP awards, and to be the best in the game you need the accolades. His closest competitors, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and LeBron James, all have two or more championships. For Leonard to be the best, he might need to lead this Raptors team to a championship.
For what it’s worth, this is James reacting to a 21-year-old Leonard checking into the game to defend him in 2014.
Bron’s reaction when 21-year-old Kawhi checks back into his first Finals is priceless pic.twitter.com/iVYM7ZAxw7
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 28, 2019
What is the historical significance of this series?
Not only would a championship put the Raptors on the map as an elite NBA franchise, forcing American media to finally respect the team up north, but it would also end the city of Toronto’s 26-year drought without a major championship.
On the other side of things, the Warriors are capable of becoming one of four franchises in NBA history to win three straight NBA championships. In the race for best player alive, that would give Curry four rings, one more than James, and Durant three. However, if Leonard’s Raptors are able to win the championship and stop the three-peat, Leonard would likely become the only player in NBA history to win two Finals MVP’s by stopping two different potential three-peats, first by defeating the Miami Heat in 2014 and then the Warriors in 2019. He will have done it all before the age of 28.
What is a bigger physical anomaly: Kawhi Leonard’s’ hands or Kyle Lowry’s backside?
The Raptors sometimes look like a group of oddballs on the court. From Kawhi Leonard’s huge hands to Marc Gasol’s long arms to Pascal Siakam’s insane athleticism to Kyle Lowry’s large backside, the Raptors’ players are in possession of some of the biggest physical anomalies in the NBA.
Sometimes Leonard palms a ball off the ground, or fakes a pass with the ball remaining glued to his palm, or shoots his traditional low-arcing shot, and you wonder: how big are this man’s hands? The answer, according to Raptors PR, is 11.25 inches across and 9.75 inches long.
Fun fact: Leonard’s hand measures 11.25 inches across from thumb to pinkie & 9.75 inches long. That's 52% wider than the average man’s hand.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 17, 2018
But he doesn’t have the biggest hands in the league. That title belongs to Philadelphia 76er Boban Marjanovic, who also has eight inches of height on Leonard. But still, Leonard doesn’t hold the league belt. But what about Lowry: Does he have the biggest ass in the league?
It’s hard to know for sure — the NBA, unfortunately, does not track this sort of thing — but he does have entire Twitter accounts dedicated to it, and when asked about being called “thicc” on Inside the Green Room, Lowry responded with, “I’m a strong human being.” At least we know it’s a distraction to Warriors’ fans, which is all we could really ask for at this point in time.
Why do people keep asking if Kawhi Leonard is staying?
To the outside eye, it might look as if Leonard has no reason to leave Toronto in the offseason. After all, in his first year with the Raptors he is going to the NBA Finals and is the king of the Eastern Conference until further notice. He is healthy and was rested throughout the season. He is beloved in Toronto and across the country, with an opportunity to become one of the biggest sports stars in Canadian history. He’ll never have to pay for food again. Plus, it’s Toronto: the best city in the world.
Well, Leonard originally asked the San Antonio Spurs to be traded to Los Angeles, where he grew up and where his family still lives. That’s why the Clippers are heavily favoured to land Leonard this offseason. But with every win and every montage of the city going bonkers, Leonard becomes more and more likely to sign a long-term deal in Toronto. Imagine watching five more years of this monster… It’s very exciting. So here’s to hoping Leonard likes living in Toronto as much as we like having him here and likes being a “Toronto man” as much as we want him to.
Do we like Drake as a Global Ambassador for the Raptors? Or do we prefer he just sings about ex-girlfriends?
Whether you like it or not, Drake speaks for Torontonians.
Drake speaks on the Toronto raptors going to the NBA finals pic.twitter.com/P3YdT18F4J
— Plugged Soundz (@pluggedsoundztv) May 24, 2019
You might not like everything he says — the NBA certainly doesn’t — but he is passionate about the Raptors and speaks his mind about the American disrespect for Toronto. He is in competition with Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee for the most famous basketball fan ever, and he is from Toronto. That’s pretty cool. He might even get a ring if the Raptors win…
People are talking about the Warriors like they’re Michael Jackson in his prime. What makes them so good?
The Warriors have been to five straight NBA Finals and won three of the last four. Their roster is comprised of five all-stars, including two of the best five players in the world in Curry and Durant. They have the best shooting backcourt in NBA history and the most powerful offense in the league. They are also desperate to complete the three-peat to be considered the greatest dynasty in NBA history, especially with Durant likely leaving for another team this offseason. In other words, they are kind of unfair.
But if anyone has a chance to dethrone them, it’s these Raptors, and it’s right now. That sounds weird to say, but it’s true: The Warriors are aging and tired, having played in five straight finals amounts to playing an extra 99 games over the past five years. Kevin Durant is injured and is ruled out of game 1. Andre Iguodala was injured and missed the final two games of their prior series. Demarcus Cousins suffered two significant injuries to the same leg and is questionable for game 1.
The Raptors, on the other hand, have their eight best players all healthy. They are peaking at the right time possible, getting better as the playoffs have gone along after defeating two of the best teams in the East, including the Bucks, the best team in the league all season with the MVP favourite Giannis Antetokounmpo. They are confident and have proven to solve every team they’ve played so far. The Warriors are a different beast, but if anyone can beat them, it’s the Raptors.
What if, hypothetically speaking, I’m at my favourite restaurant this summer and Kawhi Leonard sits at the bar beside me. We get to talking and he asks, “what would you do to keep me in Toronto?” What do I say?
You tell him that you’ll do anything he damn well pleases! God, why is that even a question? Show him the best restaurants in the city. Take him to the murals painted of him. Take him to Caribana (or Trinity Bellwoods on a Sunday if he’s into white women) (that’s a joke, people). Talk trash about Los Angeles. Gift him sexual favours if it comes to that. We need to band together and do everything and anything it takes to get Kawhi to stay.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 29, 2019
Do your part, Toronto.