We were huddled in thousands, light in our eyes, joy in our hearts, and pride in our call: “We are the champions, my friends…” Our voices – strong and surprisingly melodious – beckoned to our night surroundings, that we are the champions. I wondered if the angels were watching from above, asking God: “What is it that makes these people so happy, God?” I wonder if God was saying to the angels:

 

“Victory.”     

 

 

“The Toronto Raptors will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.” – National Post, June 14, 2019

 

Echoing Adam Silver, basketball has come full circle in Canada. The first game played in NBA history was in Toronto, the sport was invented by a Canadian, and here and now today, the 2019 NBA champions are the Toronto Raptors.   

 

“This is for Canada baby.” “And you deserve it.” “You should be proud.” – Ibaka

 

Yes, we should be proud – victory is honourable. It is hard- and well-earned. And we owe it to our players for teaching us about playing to win, and winning with class.

 

Post game during the finals, Kawhi told the press that he wasn’t playing to make any records, that he wasn’t playing for the fans – he was playing to win.   

 

Following the championship victory, he opened up to the press, saying: “This is what I play basketball for.” When the press touched on his trade into the Raptors, he said: “I just came in with the right mindset, let’s go out and win ball games.”

Lowry’s words mirrored his teammate’s: “Win that’s all that matters, win, that’s the mindset.”

 

Our team has a victory mindset, and it’s a mindset that works. Playing for victory in and of itself is sufficient. It keeps your head in the game – you aren’t distracted by the xyz other reasons that there might be to play.

 

Our team was playing to win, and they did it with class. While my family and I were shouting at referees through tv screens, our players seemed unfazed. It was what it was and they had to keep going. I was overcome with admiration for the calm character and cool-headedness of our players – but also for the drive and the encouragement they have which seems to come from within themselves. They were focused, doing what they needed to do.

 

“Always trust in yourself, keep working out, have faith, good things happen to good people.” – Kawhi

 

Our players seem to have an unrelenting faith, not only in themselves but in something beyond themselves, and their faith seems to keep them centred. Lowry and Kawhi echoed each other in an interview after the championship victory:

 

“And everything happens for a reason, everything.” – Lowry

 

“Things happen for a reason, things happen to good people.” – Kawhi

 

Yes, good things happen to good people. That’s how we get miraculous moments, moments that happen at just the right time, like Kawhi’s buzzer beater.   

 

This combination of victory as the goal and an unrelenting faith creates a comforting calm and reflects an honest love for basketball among our players, which can be felt in the tone at the top. When the press asked Kawhi what he tells his teammates before games, he answered: “Just enjoy the moment, and leave it all out on the floor, and have fun, this is basketball.”

 

Ahead of game six, Lowry spoke about Kawhi’s love for basketball:

 

“I think he’s the best 2-way basketball player in the NBA, he just goes and I’ve seen some stuff from him this year that you say ‘wow,’ you do say ‘wow’ and you appreciate the work that he’s put in and he works extremely hard at his game and works extremely hard on his body and he loves this basketball thing. Loves it.” – Lowry

 

Kawhi appreciated his teammates’ support for him:  

“It’s great to have teammates on your team that have confidence in you – it helps you, gives you extra drive, an extra push to be better and when you play or don’t play with someone you can see how good or not good they are once they’re on your team. I guess he’s seeing it now.”

It was tough for Lowry when his best friend was traded off of the team, but it seems he has realized that everything happens for a reason. Fans of the Toronto Raptors expressed deep gratitude for DeRozan ahead of the championship win:      

“He put the city on the map … he basically represented Toronto for like what close to 10 years and we owe a (ton) of gratitude to him.” – CBC News, How the Toronto Raptors became Canada’s team

“He repped us when no one else would.” – CBC News, How the Toronto Raptors became Canada’s team

“He’s done so much for the city, we miss him, we love him.” – CBC News, How the Toronto Raptors became Canada’s team

After the championship win, Kawhi let the press in on the situation soon after the trade:

“I texted Kyle once I got traded and told him let’s make something special happen. I know you’re down right now but… you know it probably didn’t work for both of us… but we got a chance to do something special.”

As Kawhi said this, Lowry was sitting beside him. There they were, wearing huge grins and championship t-shirts – and people across the nation were grinning with them.   

“We’ve got a whole country behind us, and we brought it home!” – Miller

It’s incredible to see people in B.C. and Quebec cheering on a Toronto team – and that’s because the Toronto Raptors are more than only a Toronto team. The Toronto Raptors are the joy of a nation.

“To me basketball is something which can unite us together.” – Nav Bhatia

Taking to the streets after midnight with pure exhilaration, greeting faces with a huge grin, receiving hugs and pats and high-fives, helping each other climb trucks and traffic lights and other heights, chanting in unison – the celebrations of victory have been transcendental. We, Canadians, have ended up with a championship trophy, but we have also ended up with something profoundly spiritual: Unity – at least when it comes to basketball.

“I feel like a champ.” – Ibaka

 

Canadians, like their Raptors players, are walking the streets feeling like champs. We are gliding in our greatness, as we should be, but if there’s something we must remember, it’s that being great comes with great responsibility. So far our players have been extraordinary role models, and it’s exactly that, they are role models – if the Raptors have pushed and endured to do good and be better, then they have liberated us to do good and be better too.   

 

When asked what was most satisfying for him personally, Kawhi answered: “Just making history here, bringing an organization their first championship, it’s just something that the Raptors can build on, that we all can build on.”    

 

We have made history with our first win in franchise history. Our players played through adversity behind the scenes that they say no one knows about, but “we came too close to turn around.” – Kawhi

 

 

Today, it’s hard not to think about the future. As we march through the streets, following the sound of cheer and in each other’s footsteps, our heads where the light is, it’s hard not to think that we have been chosen. What are we, the champions, meant to do?

 

We are the champions, my friends

And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

‘Cause we are the champions of the world

About The Author

Aisha Hyder
Community Relations Coordinator

Joined MY Voice as a writer in grade 9, now a second year student at WesternU who aspires to work in mental health care. Finds meaning in painting, collecting quotes and gazing at the moon. Is unapologetically Muslim

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