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Champions at Last, Toronto Raptors Win First Ever NBA Title

No this is not a dream!

THE TORONTO RAPTORS ARE NBA CHAMPIONS! I REPEAT, THE TORONTO RAPTORS ARE NBA CHAMPIONS!

For the first time in franchise history, the Larry O’Brien trophy will now have dual citizenship, as it will reside in Toronto!

What to say and where to start? The Raptors capped off their sensational and historic championship run last night with a 114-110 victory over the Warriors, to win the series 4-2. At times, game 6 felt a lot like game 5, with the Raptors surrendering leads and doubt starting to seep in that we might be going the distance for a game in Toronto.

The game itself – like the whole series – was a roller coaster, starting with the Raptors coming out firing, led by Kyle Lowry scoring the teams first 11 points. Kyle did it all; created shots for teammates, played stellar defense and got his own offense going. The heroics of Klay Thompson kept the Warriors in the game and eventually got them the lead in the third quarter.

We all know about the unfortunate event that occurred soon after as Klay Thompson came down awkwardly, injuring his knee and ultimately leaving the game and the arena on crutches. From there, the Raptors took control of the game with an ultimate team effort, getting key bucks from Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and all around superb team defense. A poor turnover by Danny Green in the final seconds gave the Warriors a chance to take the lead, but a contested Steph Curry 3 rimmed out, Kawhi grabbed the rebound, hit the game-clinching free-throws and then the celebrations began.

There are so many storylines to take away and highlight from this team and season. Kyle Lowry, after 13 NBA seasons and 7 with the Raptors has experienced it all. On multiple occasions, many have questioned him and whether he can lead a team to a title. Last night, he quieted all of his critics forever, by becoming a champion.

“Nobody deserves it more than that guy,” said Fred VanVleet about Lowry. “What he’s been through, the slander that he takes. People kill him for better and for worse, when he deserves it and when he doesn’t deserve it. For him to play one of his better games on the highest stage for a championship, I’m so happy for him.”

How about Kawhi Leonard, putting a bow on his comeback season by leading a new team to a championship and proving that, when healthy, he is the best two-way player in the NBA. Or Pascal Siakam, going from a seldom-used rotation player last season to an integral part of a championship team this season. Fred VanVleet, the undrafted guard, who was virtually unplayable at the start of the playoffs. After Kawhi, he was probably the Raptors most valuable player in this series, coming up with clutch shot after clutch shot.

Nick Nurse, a rookie head coach, who had no business of being in the NBA finals, consistently making the right adjustments and putting his team in the best possible position to succeed. Masai Ujiri, who said he came to Toronto to deliver the city a championship, and kept his word. A seemingly preposterous feat, taking a team from the doldrums of the NBA, to a playoff team that chokes in the playoffs, to eventually an NBA champion. He kept working, kept his eye on the prize, took smart but calculated risks that involved some tough decisions, but ultimately found a way to get it done, giving Raptors fans something they’ve always dreamt of.

“We’ve been growing and trying to prove to the world that there is a meaning to having an NBA team, one NBA team, outside the U.S.,” said Ujiri. “And all these guys, these players, they’ve been unbelievable, to our coaches, to our ownership. We have won in Toronto!”

One can’t understate the enormity of this event. It is ridiculously difficult to win an NBA Championship, even more so in a less glamorous ‘small market’ city, and even more so in the era or super-teams. The Raptors had to take out the Warriors- arguably the most dominant franchise in NBA history- to achieve this goal. What the Raptors have done is truly remarkable. It’s the culminations of years of heartbreak – losing seasons, butchered lottery picks, disgruntled franchise players leaving town and embarrassing early playoff exits. It’s also the result of years of work, building a foundation, and receiving contributions from many people on and off the court.

This may well be the moment when the paradigm shifts in our country and basketball genuinely becomes Canada’s sport. Enjoy this moment Canada.

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