Raptors Lead

Raptors Embracing Underdog Mantra

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Respect 

 In the wise words of Birdman “Put some respec’ on my name,” this was a common theme for the Raptors as they closed out 2019. The Raptors had never been the recipient of ‘Respect’ throughout its 25-year history. From disengagement of the National TV Schedule to the media swaying the NBA followers to believe that players did not want to play in this city. The culture has changed, and watching this Raptors team is simply just fun, as they play with this underdog intensity that the Raptors have now embodied. Most expected them to take a step back, but they’re sitting at an admirable 24-13 clip through 37 games– right in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff picture yet again.

The Meaning of Christmas Day Basketball

 Christmas Day is an elusive day for fans to get on the couch, and enjoy some of the best that the NBA has to offer. With intricate design on the schedule, which takes months to create, the NBA and its Board of Directors place games on Christmas Day which are expected to have the highest viewership. Christmas Day marks a day where even individuals who do not religiously follow the NBA are expected to watch basketball, with the expectation that they will continue to watch basketball because of the high-intensity match ups.

From the battle of LA to a potential playoff preview between the Bucks, and Sixers, the day truly did not disappoint. Christmas Day is special, because like the NFL and Thanksgiving, the NBA has honed Christmas Day as an iconic celebration of basketball and what it brings to communities across cities in North America. 

The Effect on Toronto

 With this being written in the New Year, I wanted to take the time to understand how this day resonated with basketball fans in the city of Toronto. Lucky for me, while celebrating New Year, I was able to see so many people sporting their Christmas Day long sleeve shirts which I expect to be worn at games throughout the remainder of the season. The Christmas Day game held something a little more special to this city, and it is easy to assume that it is because it was the first-ever, but there is something more to it.  

 I was lucky enough to attend the game on Christmas Day, and with that, I took some time to speak with fans roaming the concourse to hear their thoughts on what the day meant. Across all the people I spoke to, there was a large amount of similarity in what was said, and a long-standing season ticket holder said it best: 

“Having this game is almost like closure. We have had years of success in this franchise, where we as fans all believed that this would be the year where we would be able to celebrate the game on Christmas Day in our home. Being a season ticket holder for 25 years now, I have felt the burden of not being here watching our team, rather watching teams like the New York Knicks who have performed poorly year in and year out, and still be privileged to host the game, why? Because there is a belief that New York is the ‘Mecca’ of basketball. Today is no day to be bitter about the past, we are here, and I am present with my family to enjoy this day. it took a championship for us to get here, but none the less, we are here. So whether people want to watch this team or not, this fanbase is not going anywhere.” 

While fans roamed the concourse at Scotiabank Arena in their exclusive OVO x Raptors Christmas Day Long Sleeve, both long-term fans and new fans expressed their gratitude as they grinned ear to ear to be in the arena.

Outcome

 Although Toronto was missing core pieces including Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell, it did not stop the energy in the arena. The Raptors have continued to play like underdogs every single game, and fans love to see it. Perhaps because it brings us back to our roots in what we were. Basketball has proven to be more than just a game, from youth development to supporting our communities, we have used basketball as a vehicle in driving success on, and off the court.  

The Raptors ultimately had back-to-back games with the Celtics and came out victorious in their following game, which to many resonated as a revenge game. If a championship is what it took for the Raptors to get this game, you can expect the Raptors to continue to play like a contender. You cannot extract the championship DNA that exists in this franchise moving forward.

While the injury riddled season continues, Fred VanVleet is now out with an apparent hamstring injury and was sidelined for Tuesday’s game against the Blazers.  The narrative has continued, and it is all hands on deck as Nick Nurse has been forced again to go deeper into his roster yet again.

Follow us on Twitter @RaptorsLead for the latest Raptors news and insight.

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About Uday Saluja

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