The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions.
Whew, that’s a heavy sentence. It’s heavy with expectations, but also with shock and awe from those who thought Toronto would never reach this singular plateau. It’s heavy with 24 years of failure to get to this moment. It’s heavy from the years you spent cheering for loveable players who were clearly overmatched, the Jamario Moons and Jorge Garbajosas. It’s heavy with the future-champions who fled, left Toronto to find success, from Vince Carter to Chris Bosh. It’s heavy with the grifters who tricked the franchise in wearing the name of savior, the Andrea Bargnanis and Hedo Turkoglus and Bryan Colangelos.
It’s heavy with the exile of DeMar DeRozan, who was the first star who chose to be in Toronto, and who had to be sent away for this title to be possible. It’s heaviest with the DeRozans and Dwane Caseys.
It’s also a heavy sentence because it’s laden with meaning. The Toronto Raptors are, for the first time, the kings of the NBA. Tomorrow morning, Toronto will be full of kings and queens because of the Raptors. The city has been dancing and celebrating this team for this entire playoff run, and the party will continue. Because the weight of the win is pushing you up, lifting you to heights never before experienced in the city of Toronto.
The heights inspired by the Raptors extend well beyond the boundaries of the city of Toronto. The final moments of Oracle’s long and prestigious history will forever belong to Toronto, whose fans chanted “Let’s go Raptors” for a lifetime while Golden State Warriors fans filtered to the exit. The last basketball games inside of the Warriors’ stadium ended with Canadians screaming ‘Oh Canada’ to the rafters and beyond. “Let’s go Raptors’ has been chanted everywhere multiple Canadians can gather, including on the PGA Tour. The Raptors’ victory extends to Mississauga, Edmonton, Halifax, and yet further, where miniature Jurassic Parks have housed tens of thousands of screaming fans for home games and away.
The players themselves will forever feel the weight of this victory. Kyle Lowry’s scrabbling, fighting, every-inch-is-a-war style of play is readymade for the glory of this stage. He deserves this title.It was the fearless Lowry who took the first bite of the championship, scoring the first 11 points of the series-clinching game six. He led the Raptors with scoring in game six. A longtime warrior in the threshing grounds of the West, Marc Gasol imported the spirit of Grit and Grind to Toronto. The weight of this win will echo in more concrete ways; Both Lowry and Gasol, because of this championship, will be likely candidates to join the Hall of Fame. Kawhi Leonard could now be considered the best player in the world because of this playoff run. He is now known as the Board Man, and this off-season, he is about to get paid. Every Raptor has their own origin story, but together, they proved unbeatable.
The weight of the Raptors’ win will be felt forever. Next year, the Toronto Raptors will be defending champions. Years later, the Raptors will be the 2018-19 NBA Champions. They will never again be one of the woeful, one of the NBA franchises to have never reached the summit, to have battled and never won. The Raptors have long battled. And now, finally, they have won.
This win matters because you have chosen to make it matter. You as fans, the millions who have watched the Raptors lose and win, have poured your time, energy, and money into this team. You have inherited or chosen the Raptors, weighted yourselves immeasurably with the team’s ghosts. The culture of this team, its history, is so full and thick you can reach out and touch it. It forms its own language. But you speak the jargon, will forever defend Kyle Lowry, will remember the best of Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas.
You remember “Fuck Brooklyn.” But you also remember “two years away from being two years away.” You remember “Primo Pasta and Sauce”. You remember players quitting on the team and refusing to cross the border to Canada. You remember LeBron James beating the Raptors 10 games in a row in the playoffs. Before this year, the lowlights have far outweighed the highlights. Toronto’s past is heavy like an iron curtain.
Those lowlights add weight to the present as well. Every loss and every embarrassment added an extra burden to the franchise and its fans. The weight has been growing steadily every year, until at one fell swoop, in a months-long exorcism, it all evaporated. The Raptors only had to go through one of the hardest roads in history to an NBA championship, facing down a defensive juggernaut Orlando Magic, an all-star laden Philadelphia 76ers, the likely MVP’s Milwaukee Bucks, and the defending champion and dynastic heavyweight Golden State Warriors. Despite some extreme eeriness in a potential closeout game, the Warriors ended up revving the engines for one last ride in game six, going out like the Spartans at Thermopylae. Shedding parts at the finish line like a broken-down muscle car, Golden State still delivered uppercut after uppercut to Toronto’s chin. It was wasn’t enough, as Toronto lifted and displaced the Warriors’ roadblock as if it was far lighter than the Warriors’ history of dominance would indicate. It was weird at the end, with timeouts that didn’t exist, but the Toronto Raptors were never going to win a normal way. They won, and that’s what matters. Toronto’s present is heavy like a weighted blanket.
The present is filled with Fred VanVleet clutch eruptions, Kawhi Leonard pull-up triples, and Pascal Siakam floaters. These are good memories to have.
The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions. It’s a heavy truth, heavy enough to counteract all the good and bad that’s befallen the Raptors and their fans over the past 24 years. It’s a healing snowfall, the first clean layer that settles over a city and obscures all the ills that went before. The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions. Soak it in. Take your time. No need to rush. The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions. That will never change.