We The Champs

I’m speechless.

There are moments in life that seem elusive. You dream of them, you look for them, you picture yourself in them, but you never get to live them.

You chalk it up as something that might happen “someday” but the calendar has seven days and “someday” isn’t one. So, you keep waiting.

The Toronto Raptors just won the NBA championship and I don’t know what to say. This is one of those moments that never felt possible.

A basketball team in Canada. In a hockey town. Arriving in 1995, two years after the baseball team finishes winning back-to-back World Series championships. An extinct reptile as the mascot, inspired by a movie. Playing games out of a baseball stadium. Instructing the fans on when to boo and cheer.

No, that’s not a recipe for success. That’s not even a recipe.

Twenty-four years later, look at them. Look at what they’ve done to this country.

They’ve pulled at our hockey puck hearts and united us behind the mantra of, “We The North”. In Canada, if you’re not from Toronto, you probably don’t like Toronto. And yet, the entire country is cheering for our local sports team because in this situation, the word “local” is not confined to a city.

So, it’s fitting that the Raptors won the championship while wearing uniforms that said “North” across the front. Because that’s who they represent. All of us. Canada.

And if this championship came 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have the same affect. Heck, if it came 5 years ago, it wouldn’t be like it is now.

This was the time. This was the elusive moment. This was “someday”.

The years between Alvin Robertson’s first bucket for the Raptors in 1995, and this NBA title, have been playing on a loop in my head ever since the final buzzer sounded a few hours ago.

I wish I could invite you inside, so you can see what I’ve seen, and feel what I’ve felt because it hasn’t been easy. Oftentimes, being a Raptors fan has been a lonely experience.

You wear a Raptors jersey to school and you’re just asking for someone to tell you they suck. You sit at home watching all 82 regular season games and they can even win 30.

You get your hopes up for Stoudamire, McGrady, Carter, Bosh, and others, but one by one they leave and trigger your greatest insecurity – no one wants to play in Canada.

It’s too cold. It’s too different. Crossing the border is a hassle. They don’t want their kids to  learn the metric system. Their family and friends can’t watch them on TV. It’s a foreign country. It’s a hockey town. They don’t understand why the locals say, “Toronno”. What the hell are all-dressed chips?

For so long it felt like an uphill battle that would never end. The fight for legitimacy was real. The fight for attention from the media down south was real. We just wanted to be noticed.

But then they’d finally put the camera on us and we’d crumble, time and time again.

The feeling of, “This is too good to be true, something bad will happen soon” was engrained in me. I knew no other way for a Raptors season to end, other than in disappointment.

For the first four games of the NBA Finals, I watched every minute, yet still couldn’t believe the Raptors were one of the final two teams. It didn’t feel real. I was always looking for the old Raptors to appear.

I was looking for fear to emanate from their pores. I was looking for a collapse that would start up the, “Same old Raptors” narrative. That never happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I believed in this team – just check my playoff bracket – but when you’ve never experienced something before, you don’t know how it feels until after it hits you.

Well, this is the “After” and I can confirm that reality is finally hitting me.

The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions and yeah, I cried a few tears. I had to. I owed it to my younger self – the one who stayed up way too late one night in February of 2000, to watch Vince Carter win the dunk contest in Oakland – because 19 years later, that little boy would watch the Raptors hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in the exact same building, and feel like a kid all over again.

It’s been a wild ride, to say the least.

On Monday, there will be a parade in Toronto. I’m expecting the entire country to be shut down because we, the north, have a new mantra to celebrate.

We The Champs.

It happened.

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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25 Responses to We The Champs

  1. Congratulations, Paul! I’m so happy you got to experience this win in all its glory!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. randyjw says:

    Aww; so happy for you, the team, and Toronto, too! (Even we, Bostonians, gotta give it up sometime) (just some chivalric sports-rivalry, there… ☺️ )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay!!! I don’t have cable so I rely on people like you and fans to update me 🙂 this is such good news!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yaasss! Finally! I’m happy for you Paul. Bask in the celebrations of the Raptors, and what Drake curse? lmao

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank goodness, thought this day would never arrive. Finally, the nightmare is over … the Argonauts get to play for real next week! Whoopee, the Canadian Football League is back! Huh? What basketball game? Sorry, Paul, I couldn’t resist it. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      What a game that was to close it out, EH? I’ve never seen a Raptors play that good, or intense, in my life. This was a fun rivalry, maybe we’ll do it again sometime.

      Like

      • It was fun. It would be great if they both were to meet up again next year. I realize that might be a stretch, though, what with Durant and Thompson both on the shelf for next year. Not to mention Looney’s injury and Curry’s broken finger. And who knows if Cousins will return. But, if there’s a will there’s a way, and watching the Raptors and Warriors run up and down the floor was like watching the Triple Crown—but without the riders. Great fun. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post. I’m a lifelong Warriors fan so I cried in my hot tub until the thing overflowed last night, but I took some solace in seeing Toronto win. It was a cool story and cool to see Canada come together. Reminded me of the We Believe Warriors. Congrats.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Paul says:

      Thank you, I appreciate that! It was such a great, dramatic series. Obviously, the Durant and Klay injuries sucked and it’s probably a different series if they play, but your team was so tough even without them. Definitely a champions mentality. All the best next season.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Rohan says:

    Even with GS’s injuries, it was a competitive hard-fought series. A well earned victory for the Raps!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Barron says:

    Very happy for you, Paul! I was pulling for the Raptors because I had read your previous posts, so when the clock *finally* ran out, I was imagining the happiness and relief that must have come over you. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Becky Turner says:

    CONGRATS AGAIN ON THE BASKETBALL

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dutch Lion says:

    Great column Paul. Congrats! It’s a great feeling. I totally understand. It might not ever really sink in. I still can’t believe the White Sox won in 2005. In a way, the dream is never comprehensible. And that’s a wonderful thing. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Funny enough, I still can’t believe the White Sox won in 2005 either haha. Can’t picture a manager as fiery as Ozzie Guillen managing an MLB team these days. And you’re right, the dream is never comprehensible. On some level, this victory still doesn’t feel real.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sarah Warsi says:

    As a ‘sometimes’ basketball fan throughout the years (gotta keep it real), this milestone put an extra hop in my step and widened my smile in the last few days. Game 6 almost gave me a mini heart attack, and you know it’s a big deal when my parents are up at midnight on a work night watching the game right till the end, when they’ve probably never seen a full basketball game in their entire life! lol There’s just been a feel-good vibe throughout the city and I couldn’t be more proud of this amazing team. We most certainly the Champs! Can’t wait to catch all the mayhem from the parade tomorrow. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      It was such a fun ride watching this team in the playoffs. With every game they seemed to pull in more and more fans. Even my mom was interested in what was going on and she’s never sat down to watch basketball with me ever. It helps that the players on the team are so likable and have a Canadian mentality about them in terms of being humble and tough. The parade tomorrow is going to be nuts. I heard close to 2 million people….

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Kyle Cabrera says:

    Kawhi had such an amazing playoff run. This win was a great way to end the season for him and the Raptors.

    Liked by 1 person

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