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Posted: June 9, 2019

Hoop dreams come to the Great White North

Perceptions, by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Oh, those Raptors!

Who needs the Stanley Cup when you have a world-class team on the verge of winning one of the greatest titles in all of professional sport – champions of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Lord Stanley must be rolling in his grave as he sees thousands of Canadian NBA fans from coast to coast to coast cheering hysterically their new found hoop heroes at impromptu Jurassic Parks across the country as yet another Stanley Cup series in the US goes on almost unnoticed in the shadow of the great NBA classic.

Sport fans in the Great White North have fallen in love with a gritty team that’s only been in the NBA since 1995 and an also-ran for those long years while Canada was slowly but steadily losing its dominance in hockey at both the junior and professional levels.

Is the Stanley Cup being played this year? Who cares when you have the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry to cheer for? Not to mention Drake!

Leonard is the best two-way basketball player in the world and dominates the court whenever he’s on it in a regal almost transcendent fashion. He’s also a free agent next year and Toronto would give him virtually anything he asks for to stay including the SkyDome and the CN Tower.

Dozens of restaurants and bars across Canada’s biggest city have joined the “Ka’Wine & Dine” initiative, which offers Leonard free food, rides and shop perks for life if he re-signs with the Raptors rather than depart for Los Angeles or another U.S. basketball mecca, according to the Financial Post.

Lowry, the heart and soul of the Raptors for years, has endeared himself to Toronto fans with his gutsy defensive play, ability to score key baskets – and most of all – his character. Never was this better seen than in Game 3 when chasing a loose ball he fell backwards into the court-side crowd close to Mark Stevens, a Silicon Valley billionaire and minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, who promptly gave him a rude shove despite the fact that players accidentally falling into the stands during the heat of the game is not unusual especially in basketball where the fans sit close to the play. But a fan shoving a player is a no-no in the NBA and Stevens was quickly ejected from the game and fined $500,000 by the league.

Interviewed later about the incident, Lowry passed up the opportunity to heap further abuse on Stevens and simply said since becoming married and a father of children he had matured enough to ignore such incidents and concentrate on his game.

Indeed, “maturity” in the professional sense is what the Raptors are all about. Even in the fourth game when the Raptors were down as much as 14 points in the first half, the team didn’t lose its cool and came storming back in the second half to win by 13 points and send many dazed Warrior fans to the exits well before the game was over. And who led the way? Leonard and Lowry, the new Toronto, and very much Canadian, sports heroes, in the mould of Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr only this time in delicious irony it’s American sport heroes performing their heroics in Canada instead of Canadian sport heroes performing their exploits in what’s supposed to be the greatest sports nation on Earth.

And talk about irony on top of irony. Who was in the crowd in Game two at ScotiaBank Arena in Toronto? None other than former U.S. President Barrack Obama, a diehard basketball fan. Meanwhile Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to show his face at what could be one of the greatest Canadian sport triumphs of the century, the former century too.

You can make what you want out of that.

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