Photo credit: @Raptors/Twitter
The Toronto Raptors returned to their home city just a few days after their championship-clinching road victory in Oakland, California to celebrate with the best fans in the world. Over a million people were in attendance at a parade for the ages as Toronto was a city of champions.
The last time Toronto celebrated a pro sports championship with a parade of this scale was in 1993 after the Toronto Blue Jays went back-to-back. Clearly the city as a whole was eager to end the drought and the fans were given enough memories to last a lifetime from the Raptors championship parade.
The elephant in the room
From the day Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Raptors, questions and rumours around his future with the team beyond this season were a constant. And while we all probably thought winning a championship would bring some assurance that Leonard was going to stay long term, ultimately it still wasn’t convincing enough for the 2019 Finals MVP to sign a new deal in Toronto.
Even so, the uncertain future of Leonard’s time in Toronto couldn’t put a damper on the parade. In fact, fans, players and even Kawhi himself had some fun with it. During the trip to Nathan Phillips Square, fans began to chant “one more year” as a plea for Leonard to stay with the Raptors past this season. Kyle Lowry decided to get in on it by switching the chant to “five more years,” Lowry and Leonard shared a good laugh.
When the players finally arrived on stage at Nathan Phillips Square, Leonard would leave us with one last laugh. We all remember the hilarious viral moment from his introductory press conference with the Raptors and he made sure to reference it in his last public address as a Raptor to the fans of Toronto. Leonard came and left with a laugh and smile on his face, and as Matt Devlin said in his introduction before Leonard came on stage, “that’s what ‘Fun Guys’ do, they spread the fun”.
The night the Raptors won the championship, a fan who went viral as “Plant Guy” was carrying around a house warming gift for Leonard, a plant for Kawhi’s new home in Toronto (which never came to fruition). As hilarious as this drunken moment was, what’s even funnier is the fact it came full circle at the parade, when Plant Guy was actually recognized by Lowry and Drake and he was able to hand Leonard his house warming gift himself.
Champagne Papi celebrates as a world champ
Drake may not actually play for the Raptors, but he’s still the team’s global ambassador and he was in rare form at the parade, celebrating on the same party bus as Leonard and Lowry. Everyone was trying to get their moment with Drake, Plant Guy handed him a plant, a fan threw him a beer (which he chugged like a champ) and this reporter from the CBC even threw his mic up to Drizzy. As always, Drake reps for his city like no other.
Parade MVP Marc Gasol
When 14-year vet Marc Gasol was traded from Memphis to Toronto at the trade deadline, the motive was clear for both the Raptors and Gasol: win a championship. Once that moment became a reality, Gasol was ready to celebrate. I think I speak for everyone when I say, we were all genuinely happy for a guy who had worked his butt off throughout his career, he deserved this moment as much as anyone. Boy oh boy, did Gasol let loose.
As far as sports parades go, Toronto put on a show for the ages in 2019. As difficult as this past season was, thinking back to moments like these in 2019 will always bring up fond memories. We don’t know when the next pro sports championship celebration will be, or if it will even be anything like the celebration the city put on for the Raptors, and that’s okay because no one can take this moment away from us. We The North are forever the 2019 NBA Champions.