A Love Letter to the 2013/14 Toronto Raptors

Today, I received this shirt in the mail.

playoff tee

I ordered it after Game 1 but due to an error (that they handled AMAZINGLY. Thanks Since 95!) I only received it today. I saw the package and immediately felt a wave sadness wash over me. I thought, “Great. What do I do with this now?” But then I stuck with that feeling a bit and thought: What am I actually sad about? And let me be clear, it was sadness not anger. I wasn’t mad over bad officiating, players who supposedly under-performed, or that we were a single play away from facing the Heat in round two. There was zero anger. Why was I sad?

A wave of memories came flooding back: the Raptors improbable win in Brooklyn during the regular season, a road win in Oklahoma City, a franchise high number of wins, a second half of the season where we saw players mature exponentially, watching game 1 in Maple Leaf (Raptor/Jurassic Park) Square surrounded by thousands of fans, and seeing those crowds multiply with each passing playoff game.

Then, it hit me. I’m not sad because they lost, I’m sad because I’ll miss this feeling. I’ll miss cheering as part of a community. I’ll miss rooting for our underdogs. I’ll miss being in the crowds cheering. I’ll miss high-five’ing strangers in bars. I’ll miss the guy holding a Guyanese flag in Maple Leaf Square at every playoff game. I’ll miss the Superfan. I’ll miss that kid who missed kissing that girl. I’ll miss those 20th Annniversary ads even though there’s no way I can afford a season ticket. I’ll miss our GM getting so passionate he doesn’t care what he says. I’ll miss Drake courtside because he’s SOOOOO emotionally invested in the outcome. I’ll miss watching games with my wife and how into it she got. I’ll miss talking about it with my friends. I’ll miss the players, who played like friends instead of professionals playing for million dollar contracts. I’ll miss Jonas’ fist pumps. I’ll miss Greivis’ swagger and the way Patrick steadied the ship. I’ll miss Chuck’s calming presence and Nando’s spark. I’ll miss Landry and Steve’s utter professionalism. I’ll miss John’s on-the-ball defense. I’ll miss Amir’s hustle. I’ll miss DeMar’s big-shot-stank-face. I’ll miss Kyle’s sheer will power. I’ll miss cheering for Terrence’s three to drop because he needs this so bad right now. I’ll miss the way Dwane Casey felt like a dad and not a coach. I’ll miss the way DeMar, Amir and Kyle hugged each other and were unafraid to show their affection for one another. I’ll miss the team’s sense of brotherhood. I’ll miss THIS team, which was far greater than the sum of its parts. I’ll miss what they ignited Toronto.

I’m sad because I have to wait until fall to cheer these guys on again.

This was the season of come-from-behind victories, lint rollers, TWO Raptor mascots, and We (,) The North! This was the season where opposing team’s reps said “Hey, check out Toronto, can you be a little more like that?” This was the season of putting Toronto on the basketball map.

I’m not sad anymore. I’m proud. I’m proud that Lowry was still wearing his uniform 45 minutes after the game. I’m proud of how quickly the silence of the loss was replaced by applause and gratitude for an unforgettable season. I’m proud that Torontonians came out to support the individual and collective efforts of a team that reminded us what it was like to be passionate about something.

I’m proud. And I’m thankful. Because I got to be a part of it.

This shirt that I’ve got is more than just any other merch. It’s a reminder of this year, this team, and what happened to Toronto during the Raptors’ 2013/14 season. Mark my words: I guarantee that at least one child who watched that game yesterday will make it to the NBA. Maybe even play for the Raptors. Maybe become the next Michael Jordan. And it started here – in 2014, with this group of guys, and a city that embraced them for their efforts.

Stand up Raptor Nation! As I’ve heard many say in the last 24 hours, this isn’t the end. This is the beginning.

– Byron (Raptors fan since 95)