Is Kawhi Leonard already the greatest Toronto Raptor ever?
Did anyone else watch that game seven last night? What an absolute classic. I’ve always been more of a baseball guy myself, but I decided to tune into game seven last night between the Raptors and the 76ers, and boy am I ever glad that I did! This was one of the most thrilling games of basketball that I’ve seen.
Last night during halftime Nav Bhatia, also known as “Superfan Nav” was presented with his own championship ring along with the Toronto Raptors’ players. This makes him the first-ever fan in Canada to be given a championship ring, and one of the few non-organization people to receive one.
The Toronto Raptor president, Masai Ujiri, presented Bhatia the 640 diamond-encrusted ring explaining that “[Bhatia] represents everything we are about” and “he represents our fans in every unbelievable way there is,” in a heartwarming gesture to a man who has fully dedicated himself to the Raptors.
— Howard Chen 陈定豪 (@TheHoChen) October 23, 2019
Quite incredibly, Superfan Nav has not missed a single Toronto Raptors game since 1995 (the year of the teams founding), at the cost of attending many personal functions, sometimes to the chagrin of his very patient wife.
At the least, his absolute dedication to the Raptors has not gone unnoticed. Aside from the championship ring, Bhatia has received free seats, as well as being appointed grand marshal in the championship parade earlier in the year.
After receiving the championship ring Bhatia said that, “I always dreamt for a championship but I never thought I’d be here among all you guys accepting this beautiful championship ring. I’m really honoured and humbled,” going on to joke, “I hope my wife is not mad because I put this over my wedding ring.”
I don’t know how to put this in words. Thank you to the greatest organization in sports for how much they care about their fans. I accept this championship ring on behalf of every @Raptors fan across the globe. Words do not express what this means to me. pic.twitter.com/iA5VE10V1K— Nav Bhatia Superfan (@superfan_nav) October 23, 2019
Bhatia has not only been recognized for his love of basketball and the Toronto Raptors, but also more recently for his charity work with his own Superfan Foundation which is a non-profit dedicated to building basketball courts and camps for underprivileged kids around the world.
There is no wonder why the man has become a Canadian sports icon.
As tensions soar in the NBA over the issue of Hong Kong and China, some Toronto Raptors fans are giving away pro-Hong Kong T-shirts for their opening game.
This tweet from HK World City confirms:
A group of basketball fans who support Hong Kong’s protests for democracy, raised more than $34,000 to give t-shirts to people attending the first Raptors’ game.
“As you may know by now, China is trying to censor the entire NBA because Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted a ‘Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong’ photo to support Hong Kong,” reads the GoFundMe page in support of this endeavour.
“For those who didn’t follow what is going on, you might ask ‘why?’ It all started with a proposed amendment on an extradition law that would jeopardize the autonomy of Hong Kong and Hongkongers don’t like it.”
As of the time of the writing of this article, donations have been disabled by the organizers.
“Canada is actually another battleground to fight against China. In Canada, Pro-Beijing nationalists gathered to disrupt Pro-Democracy events across the country. In addition to deep-rooted historical ties, there are 300,000 Canadians currently working and living in Hong Kong. Canada and Hong Kong share universal values such as the rule of law, individual freedoms and human rights,” the page adds.
The shirts are expected to fill up a third of the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The Raptors have not officially endorsed this, and are not involved with any political movement.
Yesterday’s Toronto Raptors Championship parade capped off the most tremendous playoff run of any major Canadian sports franchise in the past quarter-century. An estimated north of 2 million people lined the streets of downtown Toronto and packed Nathan Phillips Square, waiting hours to see their heroes and hear them rejoice in victory.
It was a celebration shared by many across this country and a scene that will be hard to forget.
Why did so many people skip work and school, wait for hours in cramped and uncomfortable conditions along the route to see their champions atop open-air buses for a moment or two? Or the tens of thousands jammed into a small city square in front of city hall to listen to a few speeches from athletes and politician. But the question remains, what compels people to identify with athletes who rise to the top, and why do we all want to identify with them as “our team”?
When I tuned into Toronto sports radio yesterday, I heard similar themes that have been echoed over and over again during this run. Why did so many jump onboard and support this team?
Most analysts agreed that something important changed when Kawhi Leonard hit that miraculous buzzer beater in game 7 of the second round to eliminate the Philadelphia 76’ers. That shot, all its drama and significance reeled in people who would never care about basketball, and turned them into crazed and passionate supporters for the next three weeks as the Raptor’s chased championship glory.
I wrote about that shot and it’s meaning and argued that we needed to look to the deepest ideas of meaning to truly understand the gravitas of that shot. “But those [surface level] meanings pale compared to symbolic extrapolation of what the shot tells us about our collective humanity. Struggle over adversity, doing the impossible, finding a miracle, executing in the moment, and reveling in momentary perfection.”
It seemed a prophetic observation, the momentum only grew. Over 7.7 million Canadians tuned in on average to watch Toronto clinch champions’ gold against the Golden State Warriors, with 15.9 million tuning in at one point. If you add the tens of thousands in the 59 Jurassic Parks across Canada, the number reaches close to 50% of the Canadian population engaging in the same activity at the same time, and importantly with the same motivation and goal. Clearly, something deeper than a sports victory is pulling people together.
Sport Philosopher Robert Novak highlighted the etymological root of the word fan in fantastic, which relates to the Greek word fanum meaning loosely meaning Temple or Sacred Place. Sport offers us a chance to not only participate but for the spectators to invest themselves in these dramas of our collective humanity.
Sport’s transcendent nature is not just for the participants, but also for the spectators. The insistence upon fans as participants in the actual contest relates an important unique element of sport as a cultural institution.
We can actually participate with our heroes, we do not follow along with them in stories, but we actually journey with them as the story unfolds. Think of the crowd’s affect on the opponent’s and referee’s at a home game as a great example. Unlike actors, writers, poets, and artists, all involved in the sport environment participate in the action and thus experience and live its symbolic lessons in real time along with the hero.
It’s why broadcasters, for example, sound more like giddy fans on parade day than objective observers.
How could they be? No other cultural institution allows this type of participatory potential with the heroes of the story. As the athlete or the participant, sport offers humanity the experiments to touch the height of human perfection and taste the bitterness of constant and recurring death.
That’s the power of sport. It unites people in a drama they will relive forever. How many young Canadians are streaking down the right side of the basket and putting up Kawhi’s miracle shot, trying to recreate the moment? Canadian broadcasters replayed Game 6 on the radio and television over the weekend, allowing fans to bask in the glory one more time. Toronto Mayor John Tory immortalized this team by declaring parade day, June 17, as “We the North” day. This team did not just win a championship, they incredibly united millions of people around a possibility.
You can just look at the numbers to see it’s true. But even deeper than the numbers, people united around sports for its transcendent purposes. Many narratives are being written about how basketball, a global and diverse sport, is bringing together the new diverse Canada.
Yes, we can look at people’s superficial identifiers and note how the Raptors crowd is highly textured. That’s a good thing. But it’s not the important takeaway into why so many fell in love with this team.
If anything, the Raptors reflected a Canadian attitude independent of diversity. A hard working, no frills, yet confident and humble group. Fans saw in the team a sense of what unites Canada.
If we had a diversity of values in this country, we wouldn’t see the same type of unified affection for the team. We might look differently, but that’s not important.
What’s important is what brings us together.
Sports’ transcendent nature allows a society to broadcast and reaffirm important cultural values.
The Raptors’ hard work, dedication, sacrifice, execution, and excellence are virtues that Canadians still hold dear.
We may be split on politics, music, literature, art, and television, but sports provide us a place to celebrate together. It’s that message that should resonate from the Raptor’s victory.
It’s more important to share in the values that sport affirms, and that’s exactly why millions of Canadians lost themselves in the fever of the past few months.
We won’t soon forget this run, and we should remember it for all the right reasons.
As fans descended en masse to attend the Toronto Raptors Parade in Nathan Phillips square, Premier Doug Ford was booed by a jeering crowd when he was introduced as a guest of honour on the stage.
The Premier attended the parade alongside Toronto city Mayor John Tory and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was met with a mixed reaction of heckling and cheers.
Polls have shown that Ford’s popularity has faltered after being elected to the premiership in 2018. Many have criticized the Progressive Conservative government’s widespread cuts since taking office.
The Ford government’s polling numbers have seen it drop into third place among other provincial parties. A May 23rd poll by Mainstreet Research found the PCs fall behind the Liberals and NDP with only a 22.4 per cent of the vote.