The Toronto Raptors are 24 years old and there have been several times where reaching the NBA Finals would stay as a dream. Star players, such as Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh, wanted out. Head coaches were fired every few years. They drafted Andrea Bargnani 1st overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, yes that happened. Throw in some rebuilds and unable to breakthrough LeBron James in the previous three playoffs, a Raptors fan could only be pessimistic that the team they support could reach NBA’s biggest stage.
In the past year, the Raptors fired head coach, and coach of the year Dwane Casey. They traded arguably their best player in franchise history, DeMar DeRozan, for superstar Kawhi Leonard who is a free agent this summer. Was a move that put the Raptors all-in for the 2018-19 campaign, proved furthered at the trade deadline by acquiring veteran Marc Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, and Delon Wright. Raptors make the playoffs once again and, although they had a couple hiccups, they “bounced” back getting through the Eastern Conference. And they did not have to worry about LeBron James who signed with the L.A. Lakers.
When the Raptors punched their ticket to the NBA Finals for first time in franchise history, it is equivalent to when the Toronto Blue Jays made their first World Series in 1992. Not only was it a historic moment for Toronto and Canada, but for their league. The World Series was played outside the U.S for the first time ever in 1992. 27 years later, the NBA Finals will be played internationally for the first time ever! A monumental moment for the NBA to grow their league globally as an international team is in the Finals for the very first time.
Another first is when the 2019 NBA Finals begin the Raptors will be seen by a global audience where millions of people across the globe will get a first impression of a Canadian NBA team. Depending on how the Finals go, the Raptors can grow their fan base internationally.
But regardless of how the series plays out, the Raptors will inspire Canadians to watch and/or play basketball. Just like Vince Carter, who created a generation of Raptors fans and Canadians playing in the NBA, the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors will create the next generation. And it will benefit the organization, city of Toronto, Canada Basketball, and the NBA.