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When the Toronto Raptors finished their Cinderella story run to the franchise’s first NBA Championship in 2018-19, the city — and the country — made them into heroes.
So, two years removed from hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, it’s only appropriate to compare this year’s lineup to Marvel’s Avengers — a group of misfits and geniuses who once lost a battle to Josh Brolin’s chin.
Anyway, I’ve “assembled” this list:
Iron Man: Fred VanVleet
With the departure of Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are in need of their new hero, groomed for the role from the beginning. Enter, Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet will take the reigns as the focal point of Toronto’s offence, much like how Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr.’s sarcastic demeanor have been the focal points of the Avengers.
Thor: Pascal Siakam
As the self-proclaimed “strongest Avenger,” Thor draws a familiar similarity to Pascal Siakam.
Both are very energetic and boisterous. They also say a lot of things that the rest of the group just doesn’t understand. So, naturally Siakam is the Thor of the group.
A few years ago, he would have been Spider-Man with his young, rambunctious attitude, but now that he’s a proven veteran, Thor is a better fit.
Captain America: Chris Boucher
At 28 years old, Chris Boucher is actually one of the oldest players on the Raptors squad.
Being in your late 20’s probably isn’t what most people would call “old” — it’s barely over half of how old Tom Brady is. But because of his advanced age compared to the rest of the roster — I’m leaving out 35-year-old Goran Dragić because he hasn’t been on the team long enough — he fits the mold as the more “experienced” Avenger who doesn’t understand all the young people’s references.
Black Panther: OG Anunoby
Humble, quiet and mighty. Who am I speaking of?
Well, I guess it’s both. Black Panther and OG Anunoby’s similarities don’t end at their African heritage — the two superhumans possess large amounts of humility and strength to effectively finish any task at hand without giving themselves all — or any — of the credit.
Hulk: Ishmail Wainright
I was close to picking Freddie Gillespie on this one because of the combination of his 6’9″ and 245 pounds, but there’s another Raptor who’s heavier, despite being four inches shorter: Ishmail Wainright.
Wainright was also a highly-touted tight end at Baylor while playing basketball before heading to France to play internationally for three years. He even spent some time with the Buffalo Bills in 2018.
Pound for pound, Wainright is Hulk. Sorry, Gillespie. If there was a taller, lankier Avenger, he’d have your name on it in my books.
Spider-Man: Scottie Barnes
As the new kid on the block and the first-round pick with the most to prove, Scottie Barnes is the obvious choice for the young and ever-learning Spider-Man.
Scottie will have to continue to learn how this Raptors system works, especially when he begins playing with the big boys. He’s only had NBA experience in the Summer League, so there’s still much respect to be earned.
Hopefully his Spidey senses will be in full force in October.
Nick Fury: Nick Nurse
First name Nick, first name Nick. It’s a match made in heaven, right?
Nick Nurse is the Nick Fury to Masai Ujiri’s Stan Lee. Fury was essentially on the sidelines, helping behind the scenes as the Avengers fought an army of robots, wildebeests and a mad titan, ensuring they had the best chances of survival. That’s pretty much Nurse’s job for at least 82 nights per year.
Let’s just hope the Raptors head coach doesn’t dissolve into nothing in the coming years.