Do you believe in magic? In the power of good luck? I’d never describe myself as superstitious but as this week played out, there was one thing keeping me from writing this blog: owning the responsibility of creating a jinx. I’ve always agreed with my dad that good luck comes to those who work hard, but what if my decisions, actions, and words could have some profound impact on the universe and the future? I had already become part of history when I found myself on the wall of the arena*, but was this all part of a larger purpose or destiny? For my all-time favourite sports team, the Raptors, it was.
Now I know I’m the most unexpected fan of them all: 5-foot nothing, female, a career in technology with a passion for fashion. But if you know me, you know the Raptors are the way to my heart. It all started in Grade 7 when my dad decided he’d coach my school basketball team. It was a big deal - he’d never coached me in any sport before and he even sprung to sponsor our uniforms so that we’d have brand new ones for the season. That same year I got a basketball hoop in our driveway for my birthday with none other than the Toronto Raptors logo on it. They had recently become a franchise in the NBA the year prior and needless to say after my first live-game, I was hooked.
The following year I was crushed when I’d made the final round of tryouts for my high school team, just to learn that they’d be cutting the Midget program that year. For those of you born outside of Ontario or after 1984, that isn’t a short joke but rather was the end of my basketball career due to changes in the education system. But my love for basketball and the Raptors was just beginning. Vince Carter had made his NBA debut and his time with the Raps would span my high school tenure. I soon had plans for he and I: I would audition for the Raptors Dance Pak and it would lead to a serendipitous moment where we would meet and forever be together. Even though our lives never crossed paths, we would always be connected by the sport of basketball.
Fast forward to 2010 when I’d moved back to Canada and to Toronto to start my career. My love for the game was reborn as it kept me connected to my Superfan (my dad), and to what was now my city. In Toronto I found a place that felt more like home than anywhere I had ever lived, and a sport that kept me engaged and excited. We didn’t dream of playoffs and championships then, just enjoyed the game for it’s pace, athleticism, and spectacle. As a result, it’s been over twenty years of watching this team work to establish themselves as true contenders in the league.
Recently, someone asked me how many Raptors games I’ve been to and oh, how I wish I’d kept track! I can promise you I’ve been to some of the most exciting ones though: I saw Carter play at the height of his career, Michael Jordan when he returned for a short stint with the Wizards, DeRozan break a career high and make franchise history scoring 52 points against the Bucks, and most recently Leonard making all our redemption-dreams come true, sinking the buzzer beater (aka The Shot) in Game 7 against the 76ers.
But this blog wouldn’t be complete without calling out the GOAT of Raptors’ moments: the NBA Championship. The energy of Thursday night can still be felt all over this city: at every turn there is a Raptors jersey, a conversation about the game, a flag, a sign, or billboard announcing the city’s support for the team. Passing a championship banner on my run this morning left a grin on my face and a pep in my step as I was instantly transported back to Thursday night and the celebration that erupted in the streets of downtown Toronto. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced: a city of people that were otherwise strangers, having the time of their lives celebrating not only a basketball team, but the place where they call home. You might even say it was magic.
*Check out my Instagram to find me in the crowd!