Roundtable

The Championship Roundtable

It happened. We’re champions. Describe your thought process over the last few days, and how the Raptors’ win has affected your everyday life and mindset.

Samson Folk

My thought process has been more or less the same; however, as far as affecting my everyday life, there’s been a strange occurrence where seemingly out of nowhere Mr. Blue Sky by the Electric Light Orchestra has started playing as some sort of theme song of my life. “Sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight…” “It’s a beautiful new day, hey hey hey”.

On the one hand it’s been terrific. Playing basketball and running has gotten much more enjoyable with this new soundtrack in my life, but listening to podcasts has become strangely difficult. Too early to say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Katie Heindl

Exhaustion and happiness, plus a big part of me still processing it all. The nice thing about a win like this is that it really does keep hitting you, so you get to relive the awe and disbelief and eventual joy when you realize it really happened and no one is taking it away. We’re going to have that little gold stripe forever.

Zarar Siddiqi

I wrote a whole article about exactly this. I feel like some chemicals have been released in my brain that alter my perception of the world and make me a more sensitive and caring human being.

Adam Robles

I’m still in a bit of a shock that we won. I’ve rewatched highlights from the game and series along with some of the interviews of the players. Winning the title really feels like a win for all of us. As a die-hard fan, I’m going to be happy for a while and will be celebrating all summer.

Josh Howe

Dreamy. Hazy. Indescribable.

On some level, it still doesn’t feel real. I’m reminded of when Kyrie Irving won his title with Cleveland in 2016, and those around him said that immediately after the victory he was still locked into game mode, and that the win just hadn’t had time to sink in.

Part of me feels that way. That it still hasn’t really sunk in, that the team no longer has any fights left to reach the peak of the basketball mountaintop.

I will say that it feels like a weight has been lifted, however, and that my life has generally been markedly more gregarious since that moment. It’s a good feeling, even if a surreal one.

Maybe, eventually, it’ll fully sink in.

Colin Connors

It’s just all felt so new. Every time I hear any reference to the Raptors being champions, it takes a few seconds to click in that it’s real. This whole playoff run has made everyday life that much better. With the nation’s collective attention being captured, every time I run into a friend or acquaintance who is a casual sports, they want to strike up a conversation about Canada’s team. It’s just been a delight.

Tim Chisholm

It took a while to sink in. Honestly, I expected this surge of euphoria when the moment finally happened (which was inevitable when the team went up 3-1), a sort of catharsis for the last 24 years, but I didn’t feel that at all. In fact, I felt a bit of melancholy. This felt like the end of first-wave Raptors fandom. If you’ve been following this team since the early days, you developed mental battle scars that you wore as a badge of honour. They were a testament to devotion in the face of ridicule. Now, there is nothing shameful about being a fan of this team, and while that’s great, it also feels a bit like a loss. Like you’re giving over part of what you felt like you earned to the masses. It’s worth it, but it’s also bittersweet.

Shyam Baskaran

It still feels like a dream, and I think it’ll really only sink in this summer, or when we open next season with a banner and ring ceremony. This is a monumental achievement that will change the way we view basketball in this city. Qualifying for and winning the NBA Finals has given Toronto and Canada a type of recognition it’s never gotten before; and perhaps that inferiority complex being extinguished, and all of those playoff demons being exorcised, will mean all Toronto sports fans will now be confident in everything they do. There’s something special brewing in this country…and the world will take notice.

Oren Weisfeld

I’ve been on a high the last few days. There are unfortunately a few dark clouds hanging over the series for me including the way the Warriors and Durant handled the Durant injury, Klay Thompson going down, and the Masai Ujiri incident with a cop at Oracle. But despite it being a weird series and even weirder finish, I know the best team won the championship and euphoria is the primary emotion.

I have waited my whole life to celebrate a championship in Toronto and it finally happened.

Louis Zatzman

The playoff run has been a stressful time for me, covering the Raptors while working a few other jobs. I also get married in under a month. But the championship was a release for me on several levels. It made much of the past year worth the effort I’ve chosen to pour into my current path. I’ve returned to being happy and optimistic all the time. Plus, I got to sleep after. Not right away, of course.

How did you celebrate?

Samson Folk

Watched the game with my friends, hung out for a bit afterwards and then recorded and uploaded the reaction podcast. It’s a little depressing to say that Puerto Vallarta (away from all the action) isn’t the best place to celebrate a Raptors (Canadian) championship. My celebration has been the warm feelings shared in the wake of the chip with all of my colleagues and friends (Love ya, Louis) and it’s left me quite content. It’s nice.

Katie Heindl

I worked late and bombed to a bar in Toronto’s Little India to meet my husband where we watched the Raptors take the ECF, it seemed like the most reliable luck. When it happened, everyone was on their feet and screaming, singing, and a few of us were like wait, WAIT, knowing the ref were going to call something but not sure which way it would go. I think some people didn’t realize that part happened and kept on celebrating, but when it really happened the rest of us just exploded. My husband also brought a bottle of champagne with him and we hit up a court to pop the bottle and play pickup for a while with a soccer ball we found, hooting and hollering and occasionally stopping just to hear the wall of celebratory sound rising from all sides.

Zarar Siddiqi

I was with Nick and Barry from Talking Raptors. It was the usual stuff pertaining to the general culture at RR. I called my mom and dad, both huge Raptors fans. We walked downtown, I was in a haze and almost floating above the ground. I took in the scenes, hugged a few random people. On the subway back some guy noticed the Arsenal logo on my shirt and goes, “Are you the Arsenalist?”. We had a long conversation. I went to NY the next day. Raided the NBA store for anything I could find. I wanted to buy stuff off the mannequin and they wouldn’t let me.

Adam Robles

Once the ceremonies wrapped up, I started to make my way to Yonge and Dundas with some friends. I probably high-fived 100+ random raptors fans along the way walking down Queen Street. I was so happy.

Josh Howe

I watched the game at home because it was a weeknight, and I couldn’t be certain the team was going to win, of course (though I had a good feeling). Wanting to be locked into this one, I did my usual thing and sat there with my laptop in my lap, eyes locked on the tv screen, and fingertips Twitter-ready.

By the time the game was down to 0.9 seconds remaining and the officials were undergoing their excessively-long review (seriously, the final minute of the game took something like 13 real life minutes), I was shaking. I could barely type. And then, when the buzzer blared and Kawhi raised his arms in triumph and Lowry launched himself jubilantly after the game ball, I cried.

Once the Finals MVP had been handed out to Kawhi, I departed my place and made my way into the city to partake in the rapturous ruckus occurring downtown. I located friends, high-fived everyone I could find, and lost my voice chanting various iterations of “We the champs!” long into the night.  

The Toronto Raptors are really the 2019 NBA champions.

Wow.

Colin Connors

High on life and drunk on beer amongst the countless other Raptors’ fans watching in Uptown Waterloo. You’d think the KW region is 15 minutes from Toronto with how crazy the scene was. I gave an uncomfortable amount of random people bear hugs and I don’t regret a single one.

Tim Chisholm

I sat on my couch until late into the morning trying to soak it all in. Just trying to live in the moment in the same way that most Raptors fans have lived for most of their fandom: alone and in their own heads. I live close to downtown, so I thought about walking over to join the crowds, but in the end I contentedly sat on my couch and pondered the new universe.

Shyam Baskaran

I was in a bar with some good friends that I’ve been watching Raptors ball with for more than a decade. It all came full circle for us as we re-connected to watch this amazing Finals run, and once the championship was clinched, we were on cloud nine. It was a euphoric celebration of epic proportions (even at the Montana’s Bar in Mississauga where we were at…the only spot in town that had enough seats to take us). I lost most of my voice that night, but it was totally worth it.

Oren Weisfeld

I watched the game with friends at a dive bar downtown then we hit up the streets, running around downtown high-fiving cars and people. We ended up at Young-Dundas where people were climbing on everything and forming dance circles and everyone was just so happy and positive and it was great to see. 10/10 night.

Louis Zatzman

I watched the game at home with my partner. But after the buzzer, I couldn’t stay inside. I intended to go for a short, 20-minute walk, but I ended up walking on Bloor for a few hours. It spawned this.

Kawhi Leonard obviously won Finals MVP, but who’s the Finals MVP… of your heart?

Samson Folk

I wrote 800 words on Kyle Lowry in the Mailbag for the first question and I think that sums up how I feel about Lowry and him being a champion. I still think Kawhi is the FMVP of my heart. All of this became possible because of him.

Katie Heindl

Can it be a tie? Fred VanVleet gets a piece because of how hard he came back after an injury that had so many clamouring for him to get decreased minutes these playoffs, if any at all. VanVleet will always, always come back a hundred times more prepared, studied, ready and raring that anyone and he hauled the Raptors off the ledge at so many teetering moments. The other huge chunk of my beating, dog-tired heart goes to Kyle Lowry, of course. There’s no one who deserved this title more, in my mind, now and maybe ever.

Zarar Siddiqi

Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet are obvious secondary choices. Serge Ibaka though. He battled hard and got some massive offensive rebounds which he then finished off with a short jump hook in traffic and often over Cousins. Though not MVP, I felt his contributions were paramount in those stretches where the Raptors bent but didn’t break.

Adam Robles

I’m really, really happy for Kyle. I’ve always been a big Raptors fan but started really following the team (and Kyle) during the 2013-14 season. I actually grabbed season tickets with my brother right before the series with Brooklyn. I’ve had those seasons ever since and really became a big fan of his throughout all the years. For reasons that are fair and not, he’s always had a narrative that he’s never come through in the playoffs so to see him close out the back to back defending champs on the road is simply amazing. In my eyes, this playoff run essentially solidified his legacy and should change the mindset that people have towards him as a player, leader and winner. #KLOE

Josh Howe

Kyle Lowry, man.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the vast majority of my personal investment in this title was seeing Lowry win one. He’s been through so much with this team, endured so much criticism, and is the last remaining member of the core that kicked off the golden era of Raptors basketball.

On top of all that, the way the guy came out in the closeout Game 6 was nothing short of inspiring. He dropped the first 11 points and had scored 21 along with grabbing six rebounds and dishing six assists by halftime.

What a performance. What a season. What a journey.

Kyle Lowry Over Everything.

Colin Connors

Kyle Lowry. His aggressiveness to start game six gave me 2011 Jason Terry flashbacks. No one deserves this more.

Tim Chisholm

Masai Ujiri. He was the first one that would berate people for being content with a Playoff appearance or a great regular season record. He would never let anyone be satisfied with anything less than a title. It really helped change the mindset of the organization and the circus that surrounds it. He was willing to look like a failure by raising the bar rather than his predecessor who was willing to lower the bar just so he publicly praise himself for vaulting over it. This title belongs to him as much as anyone for laying the groundwork in expectation before he laid it with talent on the court.

Shyam Baskaran

Fred VanVleet. Dude was so incredibly clutch that I began to run out of words to describe his performance in that fourth quarter. The way he played defense on Steph throughout the series, and buried clutch shot after clutch shot when the Warriors were sagging off of him or tending to other Raptors offensive weapons, VanVleet once again proved he was the heart and soul of the Raptors supporting cast. Finals MVP according to Hubie Brown, and in my heart.

Oren Weisfeld

Fred VanBigBalls is the obvious one but I’m going with Serge Ibaka. After the first two games, I wrote about Serge being almost unplayable and suggested more minutes with Siakam at the 5. He completely flipped the switch and played better than Marc Gasol for the remainder of the series. He averaged 16.6 points in the final three games and made some of the nicest passes of his career. He also had a huge offensive rebound and bucket in the dying minutes of game 6. He was ultimately the most surprising difference maker for me and, despite his on-court flaws, he is one of my favorite personalities in the sport and I am so happy for him #mafuzzychef #howhungryareyou

Louis Zatzman

The obvious choice for me is Fred, to whom I dedicated one of my first post-championship columns. But I’m writing this answer after the parade, while every other contributor sent in answers earlier. Sometimes (this is the only time), it pays to be your own editor. So my answer, with my focus solely on the under-discussed parade performance, is of course Marc Gasol.

Obviously, a lot of the talk has moved to Leonard’s home next year, and potential off-season moves. Are you ready to talk about such mundanities? Or is your post-championship bliss obscuring the reality of next season still?

Samson Folk

It’s not even intriguing because it’s open conjecture. No one has said anything iron-clad in months. So I don’t care, really. Leonard will make his decision and Toronto will love him regardless, but I won’t talk about his free agency when you and I can rant about Fred and Pascal closing out a Finals. There’s way too many things that are far more interesting.

Katie Heindl

He’s gonna do what he wants! But for how happy he seemed hanging around in the desert post-win, smile bright as the Vegas strip, and the tectonic shifts already taking place in the league with the postseason just wrapped, the bid to get Kawhi Leonard to stay has never been more of Toronto’s to make.

Zarar Siddiqi

I don’t care honestly. I’m good for the next 10 years.

Adam Robles

Taking a page from Kawhi, I’m doing everything I can to ‘live in the moment’. What the Raptors have been able to do has been incredible for our city, our fans, our country and the sport of basketball in Canada. I’ll worry about the future makeup of our team in a couple of weeks but for now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that we’re the best team in the NBA and will be celebrating our championship with 2m+ fans who have been waiting for this moment.

Josh Howe

It’s not really obscuring the reality of the situation for me, but I have made it a personal choice not to deep-dive into the subject until after the parade.

Enjoy it, everyone!

Colin Connors

I’m not ready, but I don’t think I have a choice after what transpired in LA this past weekend. I can’t wait to see what other craziness transpires leading up Thursday’s draft. Basketball really has become a twelve month sport.

Tim Chisholm

I think it’s hard not to talk about it when every post-Championship feature, interview, and podcast insists on making it an immediate topic of conversation. The simple fact is, the Raptors did every single thing that an organization could do to compel someone to stay, including winning a Championship and creating the nationwide infatuation with the team that could never be replicated by any other franchise. Like we’ve said all year, if he goes to the Clippers then it means that the Raptors really had no chance of keeping him to begin with, and if the Kawhi-as-a-Raptor story is a one-season Championship odyssey/oddity then it will go down in NBA history as one of the best stories to ever come out of professional basketball. I can live with that.  

Shyam Baskaran

The bliss is definitely doing a lot blurring right now…I’m not sure how long this will last (it’s not like we have a precedent), but I think this will take me right up until training camp at least. I don’t think I will have any rational takes on basketball until then, and I don’t even think it matters to be honest. This is why we make off-season moves. This is why we go to training camp. This is why we play 82 regular season games. The championship is the ultimate goal, the Raptors did it. And even if I never wanted to think about the mundanities of the process ever again, nobody can take that championship away.

Oren Weisfeld

The NBA needs to chill. Let us enjoy the moment. Relax with your 24/7 news cycle. Relax with your Woj bombs. I honestly think the league is going to have a problem in the coming years if it doesn’t get back to focusing on basketball, so let’s do that. Go Raptors, baby!

Louis Zatzman

I’m with everyone else. This matters so little to me at the moment. Since the win, I’ve been on numerous TV and radio hits, and every host asks me if Kawhi’s going to stay. For now, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. The present is infinitely more significant than the future.

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