Basketball north of the border

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AP Photo/Tony Avelar
Toronto Raptors players and coaches celebrate after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Oakland, California. (Associated Press)

The Toronto Raptors are the NBA champions. Let that sink in — I know I had to.

Being a Canadian living in the U.S., I’ve always been on the receiving end of jokes and sarcasm for being a Raptors fan. Understandably, it is the only Canadian team competing in a sport that is filled with and dominated by Americans. Even the Raptors roster is filled with players who were born outside of the Canadian border. In fact, not a single player on the Raptors active roster is Canadian-born.

Year after year, the Raptors would have phenomenal regular seasons but fall short in the playoffs, usually to the hands of Lebron James. Names like “LeBronto,” “Baby Raptors,” and “little brother” often flooded the headlines when talking about the Raptors. I was often told to get rid of my jersey if wearing it in public or jokingly told to take off my “We The North” hat before I engage in a conversation. As a lifelong Raptors fan, I can’t remember a time where I had anyone cheering with me when watching the Raptors while living in the U.S., only people cheering against me. That changed during the 2019 playoffs.

To me, winning an NBA championship is more than just a one-night celebration. It means the Larry O’Brien and Bill Russell trophies are going to have to go through airport customs at the border for the first time. It means a parade to celebrate the NBA championship will be thrown in my home country for the first time. It means that Toronto, and all of Canada, have finally won the fight for basketball respect — a battle that has gone on for more than two decades. It means that my home country can finally celebrate with the rest of the basketball world rather than staring down at the pavement for coming so close but failing to obtain the ultimate goal, again.

We’ve watched some of the league’s best players come and go of their own accord — Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh and Damon Stoudamire, to name a few. In all fairness, there could be more great players added to that list during the 2019 free agency frenzy, but for the next 365 days, no matter what happens, we are the NBA champions.

Toronto Raptors, thank you. You did it for Canada!  #WETHENORTH

“Started from the bottom now my whole team here” —Drake

—Aaron Fitzner

Daily Universe Sports Editor

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