In the span of one year Canada became a threat to the world of sports, specifically basketball. The Toronto Raptors showed the rest of the NBA they are a winning team.
By: Victoria Femia
This year consisted of some of the craziest moments we’ve seen in sports. But for Canadians this year was historic.
Holding the top spot, as probably Canada’s ultimate moment of the decade, is the Toronto Raptors winning their first ever Championship.
With Kawhi Leonard coming off an injury season with the Spurs in which he only played 9 games and Toronto trading away one of their stars, DeMar DeRozan, people were not expecting the Raptors to make it far.
But doubts against the team started to fade as Toronto maintained a spot high up in the Eastern Conference standings.
After coming off a 58-24 regular season, it was time for playoffs.
The first round against the Orlando Magic came and gone, but the second round was a back and forth battle that ended in dramatic fashion.
The series went to game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers, and it was an iconic game.
With 4 seconds left, the Raptors had possession on the inbound and the game plan? get the ball to Kawhi Leonard.
Marc Gasol inbounded the ball to Leonard who took it to the corner, shot it and hoped for the best. The ball dramatically bounced from each side of the rim before finally going through the hoop.
This was the first game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history, which led to its name, “The Shot.”
Tears were shed by the 76ers, Joel Embiid specifically, and just like that the Raptors had moved on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Milwaukee Bucks.
Given that Toronto was 1-4 against the Bucks in the regular season, most people thought Milwaukee would take the series. It started out with Milwaukee winning the first two games which made people doubt Toronto even more.
But the unpredictable Toronto Raptors went on to win the next 4 games to close out the Bucks and win the Eastern Conference title.
Toronto was so close to a title and the city was electric, every game thousands of fans filled the outside of the Scotiabank Arena, aka Jurassic Park to cheer on their team.
The Raptors went on to face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The whole Raptor team had stepped up tremendously during the playoffs, Norman Powell turned into “playoff Powell,” racking up points for Toronto. Fred VanVleet was consistently hitting clutch threes along with Marc Gasol. Pascal Siakam was averaging 20 points per game and Leonard was averaging 28 points in the playoffs.
Toronto dismantled Golden State player by player. An injured Kevin Durant tried to make an early return to the series to attempt to save the Warriors from losing but failed as he ruptured his achilles. Then Klay Thompson tried desperately to keep them alive in game 6 but he left the game with a torn ACL. It was all up to Steph Curry, who was noticeably exhausted.
Raptors took full advantage of the injury riddled Warriors, winning game 6 114-110 and went on to win their first NBA Championship.
After the game the crowd cheered for Leonard as he hoisted up his second Finals MVP trophy.
To celebrate their first title, over one million fans crowded the streets of downtown Toronto and about 100,000 packed Nathan Phillips Square and the surrounding streets at the Raptors Championship parade.
The Raptors ambassador, Drake, was of course in attendance celebrating with the team on their bus.
At the end of the ceremony Leonard gave a speech to the crowd telling them to “enjoy this moment and have fun with it,” he then mocked himself by doing his own infamous laugh.
Not long after, Marc Gasol completed a historic double by winning the World Cup with Spain. The Raptors centre became the 2nd player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year.
It was the perfect way to cap off a Championship year for the Toronto Raptors.
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