Kings of the North - Toronto Raptors NBA Finals 2019
Started from the bottom now we’re here in the NBA Finals. Since its inception, the Toronto Raptors have worked through a number of hardships. In the early years, the franchise saw its best players jump teams, seeking better pastures elsewhere, only to realize they had made a mistake and that the grass wasn’t always greener on the other side. We’ve trudged through many eras of players, from the beginnings with Damon Stoudamire and Vince Carter, to Chris Bosh, Demar Derozan, Kyle Lowry and Toronto’s new King of the North, Kawhi Leonard.
While most NBA teams were focused on building super teams around a single player like Lebron James, or stacking their teams with four or five all-star players, Toronto continued to carve its own path, refusing to follow this trend. Instead, they developed their own talent and made the hard decisions of changing coaching staff with their release of Dwyane Casey (Coach of the year 2018.), and trading Demar Derozan, their star player, for Kawhi Leonard, a Top 5 overall pick and former champion.
After a jaw-clenching win on game six against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors secured their spot in the NBA finals for the first time since the franchise’s inauguration in 1995. And so for the first time in NBA history, the finals were held outside of the United States against back-to-back champions Golden State Warriors headed by Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
Toronto’s position in the NBA Finals sent sports fans across the country into a frenzy, but its significance runs much deeper. The Toronto Raptors, Canada’s only basketball team, has united rival provinces as Jurassic Parks are quickly being erected from coast to coast, allowing fans across the country to watch and cheer on their nation’s team together and celebrate this We the North movement.
The first two games of the finals were recently held in Toronto, bringing with them an onslaught of foreign visitors who finally had the chance to experience the city’s diversity and spread the message that Toronto is a multicultural hub that celebrates all nations, ethnicities and cultures. One notable visitor was the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, who received a standing ovation.
The Raptors have brought Toronto, and even Canada, into the spotlight, dissipating this satirical image painted by American media of Canada: a frozen wasteland filled with people who only like hockey and who know very little about basketball. Drake, Toronto native, Raptors brand ambassador and biggest artist in the world, has also played an important role in changing the world’s view on Canada.
Before the franchise’s success and Drake’s presence courtside, American media did not understand sports culture north of the border, but through the team’s many victories, Toronto, and even Canada, have been able to show them what this culture is all about. The outpour of support and the franchise’s rapidly growing fanbase is unlike anything any American sports teams have ever seen before.
Until this point, Masai Urji, president of the Toronto Raptors, incurred a lot of risk and uncertainty from last season, but the organization is now reaping the rewards from many disappointments and failures from the past. All those previous challenges and all of the players that have joined and left the franchise throughout the years have played an important part in the Toronto Raptors’ story as they continue their journey to winning the championship.
This is their chance to rise to the occasion, to rep the city and to win. This is their chance to make the leap from Contenders to Champions.
Photos Courtesy of:
Illustrations by Jason Jay - CONTENDER STUDIO
Founder & Creative Director | CONTENDER Studio