NEWS
05/16/2016 17:53 EDT | Updated 05/17/2017 01:12 EDT

Toronto Raptors fans praise 'new love affair' during NBA playoffs

The Toronto Raptors hit a milestone Sunday by advancing to the Eastern Conference final and fans have been gushing with joy since the closing buzzer. 

On Monday, CBC Radio host Rita Celli took calls with superfan Nav Bhatia to hear from NBA faithful on Ontario Today about why this victory is so meaningful. 

"I've seen a lot of down times and good times," said Bhatia, who has been attending Raptors games since the team's beginning. 

"[There's been] more down times than good times with the Raptors."

It hasn't been an easy road for the team since they entered the league in 1995. Before 2016, the Raptors had only won a single playoff series and it happened in 2001, when the opening round was decided in five games or less. 

"There's a new love affair with the Raptors and what they are producing," said Hamid, who called in from Oakville.

"You see a lot of people with different backgrounds now liking the game and getting into it," he added.

"Everybody loves a winner, right?"

'We're loving it'

Angus called in from Burlington and said it was the #WeTheNorth campaign that sparked his wife's interest in the Raptors. 

"When that whole campaign started, she just got really wrapped up in it and patriotic," he said.

At first, Angus said his family wasn't really into sports. Now, he's on the radio explaining how his family gets in the car to visit a movie theatre in Oakville, paying to watch his team play on the big screen alongside fellow fans. 

"We're loving it," he said. "It's a great environment, everyone's cheering — it's a crowd atmosphere."

Peter called in from Thunder Bay and said the footage of fans inside the Air Canada Centre and outside at Jurassic Park has left an impression on him.

In his more than 30 years of watching the NBA, the long-distance fan said he's never seen a crowd like the one in Toronto.

"It just showed how loyal everybody was and how together everybody was and that's just something I haven't seen before," he said. "It really made me a big fan."

And Peter is not alone. Most callers said they felt a form of loyalty and camaraderie in cheering for this squad.

"It doesn't matter if we lose [or] if we win, I am a Raptors fan," said Ismael, a man who called in from Hamilton.

"I will be a fan forever."