It’s the last of my sore throat, endless sniffles and annoying cough. I can only guess that it came as a result of one too many past-my-bedtime, emotion-ridden nights alongside scores of other hardcore (and non-hardcore) fans cheering on our favourite Dinos through the NBA playoffs. If I ever will say that a cold was worth it, then this would be it. Would I say that if we hadn’t won the NBA championship? I’m happy to not know the answer to that question. What follows is a little re-cap of my take on the Toronto Raptors historic 2019 playoffs.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t been the most loyal fan for the last “few” years (not really counting). This could be partially due to some losing years, partially to living on the other side of the world, and partially from filling my time doing other things. Funny enough, earlier in the year, I had asked a friend (a much truer Raptors fan) which team Nick Nurse (the Raptors coach) played on when she said he got ejected from a game. Oops! I’ll even admit that I didn’t know who Kawhi (that’s Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors star player) was until well into May, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how to pronounce his name after those first few playoff games. I had a lot of catching up to do but it didn’t take me long to get back into it. Especially after that now famous 4-bounce series winner against Philly. What. A. Shot. After that, it was like the days between games were just fillers, put in place to recover emotionally and refuel for the next game.
An important question came up over those playoff weeks: Are you really a fan if you don’t watch at least one game in Jurassic Park? I think not. (Jurassic Park is the name given to the area outside the home arena where fans line up for hours prior to a game in order to watch it on a big screen). I watched game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the Park. I picked that particular game because of the likely possibility of a win, meaning we were through to the Finals, and because I didn’t think we would have much more celebrating after that (some confident fan I am). For the record, there was no annoying pushing or shoving during my experience in Jurassic Park, just good old excitement and anticipation (but too much weed smoke around for my liking). This was all followed by a big celebration filled with joyous chants of “let’s go Rap-tors” and “we the north”. Onto the Finals we went.
The energy of game 1 of the NBA Finals, both inside the arena (from what I could tell through the TV) and at bars across the city, was nothing short of electric. Games 3 and 4, however, were by far my favourites as I never imagined the team leaving the west coast one game away from taking it all. Walking through a street festival prior to game 4 (I was picking up a new Raptors shirt, what else?), I could feel the pre-game excitement. So many people were decked out in Raptors gear, new and old, official and unofficial, on their way to wherever they were watching the game. And the vendors, who were scheduled to be there until midnight, spoke of airing the game over the loudspeakers so they wouldn’t have to miss out. Raptors vibes all around.
Anticipation was at an all-time high on the day of game 5, when everyone and their non-fan friends was expecting a championship celebration. Alas, with in-game injury drama and such, it wasn’t meant to be on that rainy night. Three more in-between days would have to be waited out before another chance at the title - the perfect time to come down with a cold! But, this was the Finals after all, and games still had to played and therefore watched. And thankfully, the mission was accomplished in game 6ix, sparing all of us from another emotional rollercoaster the size of Wonderland’s newest addition. The city celebrated well into the night.
Given my circumstances, my celebrations had to wait until parade day. And what a day that was. Though in retrospect I would have chosen a different location to get glimpses of the players, it was still great to be a part of this huge celebration and show support for a team I’ve followed on and off for the last 24 years. It made me so happy to see so many people out for the city’s basketball team - finally basketball getting the attention it deserved. Hope you also enjoyed the ride in some way. GO RAPS GO.