The Toronto Raptors made history, becoming the first Canadian team ever to win an NBA championship. Their awe-inspiring playoff run has resulted in celebration across the country, as chants of “We The North” echo from St. John’s to Victoria.
Following an epic Game 5 win, we looked back at the top five moments of their historic championship run.
5. The King in the North
Fred VanVleet quietly made himself a key part of both the Raptors’ offence and defence — possibly inspired by his newborn son? He held on tight, guarding Steph Curry throughout the series. But one of his greatest moments came in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
VanVleet took an elbow to the face from Warriors player Shaun Lingstone late in the game. The result? Stitches and a knocked-out tooth (don’t worry, Drake can help with the last one.)
But also, the elbow heard around the world gave us a series of iconic memes featuring VanVleet as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones.
And like the fallen Snow, VanVleet rose again, roaring back for the rest of Game 4 and returning for Game 5 with a vengeance.
Nothing but respect for the “king of the North.”
4. ‘O Canada’ comes to Oracle
When Toronto won its first road playoff game in NBA Finals history, Canada showed up.
Game 3 at Golden State’s Oracle Stadium featured plenty of high, lows and thrills. But nothing was more wholesome than when the visiting Canadian fans took to the court following the Raptors’ 123-109 dismantling of the Warriors to sing ‘O Canada.’
It was that sort of ooey gooey maple syrup pride Canadians revel in and that night was no different. One road win would turn into another, and then turn into the Raptors heading back to Toronto with a 3-1 series lead.
3. Drake trolls Steph Curry
Over the past few years, Drake has proven himself to be the ideal mascot for the Toronto Raptors, showing up, cheering on and generally causing a ruckus courtside at games. The finals were no different.
We all know Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry is very good at basketball. We all know he chews his mouthguard like it’s a big stick of bubblegum. We also know his dad Dell Curry played for the Toronto Raptors back in the day.
For Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Drake took full advantage of that fact, showing up courtside in a vintage Dell Curry jersey.
A bit on the nose? Yes.
Perfect trolling? Of course.
2. The SHOT
Game 7 of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. A win means the Raptors move on. A loss means they are out. Kawhi leaps. He extends, leaning back as the ball leaves his hands and arcs through the air.
It hits the rim.
The buzzer-beating two-point shot from Leonard sent the Raptors to the Eastern Conference final. It kept them on pace. It led to memes and epic photos and a moment engrained in the collective consciousness of this country forever. It’s going to be talked about alongside the likes of Sidney Crosby’s gold-medal-winning overtime goal.
It was clutch. It was perfect. It will be remembered forever.
1. The win
It started with VanVleet’s three-pointer with nine minutes left to go. That was the momentum shift after a decidedly back-and-forth game.
Then Golden State scored. Then VanVleet hit another three-pointer. and Golden State responded.
And then VanVleet sunk three consecutive foul shots?
AND THEN VANVLEET HIT A THREE-POINTER WITH LESS THAN FOUR MINUTES LEFT TO PUT THE RAPTORS UP 104-101.
Siakam sinks a two-point shot with 30 seconds left.
The Warriors hit two points’ worth of fouls.
The score is 111-110 for the Raptors with 18 seconds left.
The Warriors try to come back.
There’s a lot fo back-and-forth official reviews....
A few free-throws...
And of course, it ends with series MVP Kawhi Leonard hitting two beautiful foul shots.
WE. THE. NORTH.