Forgive us as a whole if we've been slacking on keeping up with the wild roller-coaster of emotions that was the Raptors playoff run. Like everyone else across this country, we might've been celebrating a little too hard. It was a time in all of our lives that really can't be put into words... but I'll do my best.
In all honesty, this entire playoff run started on an all too familiar note if you're someone who's followed this team for the last few years. Raptors fans have seen this team look dominant throughout the regular season, only to fall flat in the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion (remember LeBronto?). Flashback to what seems like eons ago at this point, when the Raptors were being torn apart by the all powerful..... D.J Augustin.
Augustin torched the Raps in game one with 25 points and six assists in just 30 mins on the court en route to a 104-101 win. It felt like the stars were aligning again and we would be on our way to a Toronto Maple Leafs style heartbreak. It didn't take long to see that Kawhi Leonard had no intentions of letting that become the case.
You could see that this year was different, that we had a real league-wide star on our hands any time he was on the court. Not only did he shut down the some of the best players in the sport, he put up nearly record setting numbers for the amount of 30 point games he put up. Maybe he isn't Michael Jordan, but for a short stint from April into June he was OUR Michael Jordan.
He took any doubt that Raptors fans had and tore it to shreds all by game 2. The Klaw dismembered the lowly Magic team, going off for 37 points in 33 minutes, while helping the Raps hold them to just 82 points and effectively lifting a giant weight off the shoulders of both the players and fans alike.
Everything from then on feels like a blur. If you followed along throughout the rest of the playoffs it's honestly kind of hard to pinpoint anything from the Sixers series that wasn't "the shot", but oh my what a shot it was. Even from an entire country away I was able to sit there and watch with my breath held as that ball bounced 700 times (give or take) on the rim before finally giving the Raps faithful it's first "greatest moment in franchise history".
I say first because they just kept coming after that. The team got down 2-0 and decided they'd had enough of losing. Every night there was a different hero helping Kawhi dominate the final four games of a Milwaukee series that a lot of people (myself included) thought was over after that slapping the Raps took in game two.
Whether it was Lowry, Van Vleet, Siakam, Gasol, Ibaka, or even playoff Powell, there was always someone ready to rise to the occasion and put on a show until Kawhi was ready to single-handedly put the game away. This team is one of very few all time that I can say without a doubt that they would have lost early on if they had lost literally anyone from their entire roster.
Maybe it was that depth, maybe it was their chemistry, or maybe it was just some help from the basketball gods, but it seemed like right from the tip off of the NBA finals that we were destined to witness a Larry O'Brien trophy come to the greatest country in North America.
Is it a horrible feeling for Golden State to watch in agony as they lost Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to serious injuries? Sure. By no means however should that lessen what the Raps were able to do to the still deadly Golden State Warriors.
Their defence put on a show, lead by both the Klaw, and the one eyed man himself in Fred Van Vleet. Kyle stood his ground through the most charges in the NBA playoffs, and the bench showed up literally every single game with some new hero. While Kawhi was easily the best player in the entire playoffs, you will look back at those games years from now and remember "the Siakam Game" or the "Kyle Lowry start" or the "Super-Serge game". A fitting description for a team that relied on just about everyone.
So here we are. Four wins down, lifting the Larry OB above our heads, packing the streets of downtown Toronto with cheers and high fives while we celebrate the win that happened nearly 10 hours by plane away. Did we care whether or not Kawhi was leaving? Hell no! Did we care that Masai Ujiri was allegedly Conor McGregoring cops on his way down to the court? No, because it never happened and it didn't matter, he earned every second of this.
It was that brilliant man who crafted this team and made it what it was today. Masai was the one that made the decision to rebuild on the fly when he got here. It was him that had to make the incredibly hard decision to trade an all-time franchise superstar and fan favourite for a guy who pretty much wore out his welcome in San Antonio. And it was Masai who said in the middle of the year that they needed to get better, and to do that they needed to get rid of some key bench players.
Remember his name, because it was Masai Ujiri who not only won a championship in this incredible city, but was able to bring a country of mant different backgrounds together. For what was about two weeks it didn't matter who you were, or what coulour your skin was, everyone was united as one to watch history unfold. Just look at the hordes of people that followed around superfan Nav Bhatia everywhere he went. Turban displayed proudly, the legend became the face of a Tim Horton's commerical... the most Canadian thing a man can do.
I've said for a long time now that a Leafs Stanley Cup would be the biggest thing to ever happen in this city. After watching four million people pack the streets of Toronto to watch 14 players, a few coaches and a hip hop superstar drive by on top of coach buses, I can safely say I was very wrong. THIS will be the biggest sports moment this country will have for a long time at least.
It's been a week and a half, and the feeling is still surreal. WE are finally champions here in Toronto for the first time in my lifetime. I know one of us should've wrote this piece a while ago. But how does anyone take themselves away from the greatest thing we've ever seen to try and articulate this feeling. It may have taken us a while, but we're here now, and I'm writing this feeling like a champion!