Not gonna lie, before this week I had literally never met a Toronto Raptors fan in my life. I had seen people walking around with Vince Carter throwbacks and occasionally someone would pick the Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan squads in NBA 2K. But outside of that the Raptors lived in my brain as just another victim of LeBron James’ Eastern Conference domination. Nobody I knew in Oakland was a Raptors fan.
That changed over the span of 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday before Game 1. I had four interviews with Toronto media; my first genuine conversations with Raptors supporters.
The first question I took on a radio interview with Matt Galloway of CBC Radio was, “Do the Raptors have a chance against the Warriors?”
I was taken aback. As I responded with something to the effect of “um, yeah, Kawhi Leonard is hella good”, I realized this was nothing like the nonsensical vitriol I’ve had directed me via social media by certain uncouth fans in Houston or a particular area of Ohio. Galloway’s query had the humorous generosity of a no-look alley-oop pass off of the backcourt. I had a blast, especially when he asked how I felt about Drake running on the sidelines (please give the champs more fuel, Drizzy).
The “Dr. Tom and the Gold Blooded King” podcast invited two guys from Raptors HQ, Jay (@Rosalesaurus) and Andreas (@andreasbabs). When they discussed the trials and tribulations of surviving the harrowing Eastern Conference postseason, I totally connected. I remembered the Dubs’ first Finals run when the squad fell behind 2-1 twice. It felt like a bubbling mixture of hope and desperation the wells up in your stomach when you’ve never been to the promised land, but know you’re close.
Our GSoM instigator Bram tried to get them to break their friendly politeness with some barbs about Drake, but the best he could get them to do was roast LeBron James (it’s personal for Raptors fans).
The last show was an impromptu TV interview with the superb host Jennifer Hall of CBC News.
Talking about the emotion of the move from Oakland from the perspective of a kid who grew up in the shadow of the Coliseum almost got me a little misty. It was refreshing to talk basketball and culture with folks who can appreciate Golden State’s dynasty without giving up their feverish passion for the Canadian squad.
Toronto fans’ eager excitement to discuss their team’s first Finals trip (ever) was almost enough to melt this gold-blooded heart of mine. Also, our extended chat about Drake really let me know just how much the Canadian rapper was turning himself into Spike Lee on steroids.
Don’t be fooled, under all that sweet talk, Canada want us to take an L. At the end of the day, someone’s team has to win and the other’s has to lose. I expect the Golden Empire to plant their flag directly through the Raptors dino mascot’s chest and claim the North.
And I can’t wait until I get to recap the series with our friends from across the border.
Who is winning in Toronto for Game 1?
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