The Toronto Raptors have wallowed in mediocrity for the better part of their 20-year existence. For the most part, the experience of watching the Raptors over the years has been trying at best and depressing at worst. They’ve qualified for the post-season six times and have won ONE measly playoff round all the way back in 2001. Throughout their history, they have a win-loss record of 630-882, just under 42%. To be fair, we haven’t been the only tortured fan base in the league, seeing as how only 17 teams have ever won the chip. But there have been times when every new Raptors season has felt like a foregone conclusion: complete and utter insignificance.
Ladies and gentlemen, here to bring some much-needed positive vibes to this whole debacle, I present to you the 2014-15 NBA season. At the time of writing, the Raptors have the best record in the East (13-3) and the highest average point differential (10.6) in the entire league. Our record sits just a smidge behind two Western Conference powerhouses in the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.
Tack on a super-successful #WeTheNorth (#WeTheFourth?) marketing campaign and this season has been a ball so far. It’s finally time to feel good about our team. We’re deep, we’re likable, we have all kinds of swag, we have Drake sitting courtside, and we’re finally having fun playing basketball. Here’s some top moments so far.
All things Drake
I’m trying my best to resist posting a series of pics and gifs of Drake being Drake and just calling it a day, dropping the mic. Because when he’s sitting in his courtside seat (sometimes in awesomely lame outfits such as the one above) clapping, cheering and generally going nuts, it’s hard to not get down with that. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the best (some might say the best) at his craft right now and he’s a legitimate fan of this team, having grown up in The 6.
Probably my favourite Drake moment of the year came at the George Constanza glasses/grandpa sweater game, a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. In the fourth quarter, with the Raptors easily handling the Sixers, James Johnson broke free for a breakaway dunk. Old man Drake had quite the reaction:
Drake’s official title is the Global Ambassador for the Raps. I’m not entirely sure what that entails but if it means more Drake-ey things from his courtside seat, I’m all in. And I’m pretty sure an official Drake Cam is the best idea I’ve ever had. Just throw it in the top-right corner of the screen and we good.
The travelling band of merry Raptors’ fans
So we all know we have one of the best fanbases in the league. We’re loud, we’re passionate and we can be a little crazy, over the top even. In one of the more satisfying wins of the season, the Raptors travelled to Cleveland and soundly beat LeBron’s new superteam. But one of the more interesting aspects was something that was happening in the stands. In one section of the arena, there were, according to the Toronto Star, “a few hundred” diehard Raptors fans cheering on their team. Decked out in Raps gear, they were chanting and screaming their heads off. They even sang the Canadian national anthem at one point. In a classic backfire, the arena staff decided to turn up the music to drown out the pro-Toronto chants. And what did they play, you ask? Yup, they played Drake. Yeah, I doubt that did much to dampen their collective spirit.
Oh, and they didn’t stop once the game was over. Don’t let anybody tell you Toronto doesn’t love basketball. The Toronto Maple who?
Sure, we could have a real debate about strength of schedule. Eleven of the Raps’ 16 games have been in the friendly and supportive confines of the Air Canada Centre. They have played zero road games against the much tougher Western Conference. And they’ve played Orlando twice and Philadelphia once, both relatively easy outs. But the Raptors didn’t make the schedule. They have to play the teams the NBA tells them to play. Sure, it’s been favourable but what I’ve really liked is the ease in which they’re dispatching opponents. They beat Philly by 32, Utah by 18, Milwaukee by 42 and took down LeBron and co. by 18 in their house, apparently with the whole city of Cleveland behind them. All of these wins results in the 10.6 average point differential mentioned above, tops in the league. So sure, it hasn’t been the most gruelling schedule but this is a deep league where nearly every team can beat any other team.
It was about time, right? It’s been a full ten years since Vince Carter left Toronto for New Jersey. And he’s been loudly booed ever since. Sure, he was far from perfect on his way out of Toronto whether it was not giving 100% on the court or childishly refusing to dunk. But he brought excitement and credibility to the Raptors around the same time the other Canadian team was going belly up out west. It’s time we forgive him. And earlier this month, the fans took a step in the right direction. After a video tribute played on the jumbotron, the fans stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Vince even shed a few tears.
This was the right thing to do. Finally, some closure. Now let’s start focusing on our team. And so far, what a team it’s been.