The NBA finals are over, the Raptors won their first championship, and now it’s time to look ahead to the future.
And the team’s fanbase looks to be in good hands, seeing as one of them was almost born at a game, and another during the finals last year.
Sarah Thomas had just finished watching an “absolutely terrible” Raptors game on their home court when she realized she was going into early labour in the parking lot.
“We went straight from a [Jan. 26, 2018] Raptors game to the hospital. He was two months early.” said Thomas, recounting the birth of her youngest, Blake Thomas.
“He was the Raptors baby at the NICU,” she said.
So many of Blake’s first moments incorporate the Raptors. “We spent the first two days still in our Raptors gear at [St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto],” said Sarah. Blake’s first word was “ball” and his incubator at the hospital was covered by a Raptors jersey instead of a blanket.
Since his birth, he’s already been to three games.
His 10 year-old brother, Beckham, is also a die-hard Raptors fan. Beckham attended his first game in a baby carrier before his first birthday, and has grown up to play basketball himself. Blake can be found bouncing a basketball at all of Beckham’s games.
None of these itty-bitty Raptors moments would be possible without the family matriarch’s early love for the Raptors. Cath Done, the boys’ maternal grandmother, has loved the Raptors since their origin. “When I was at the university, [I] started watching the University of Waterloo’s basketball team,” she explained, “I had never really seen basketball [before] … in those days, they had a great team. It just grew from there.”
The Toronto-based family has travelled as far as Florida to see the Raptors play. Back home, the Thomases are season ticket holders, and Beckham has been to most of this year’s playoff games.
“He was the Raptors baby at the NICU.”Sarah Thomas on her son, Blake
The family’s love for the Raptors is not just a result of their love for basketball, but more so a desire to support really good guys.
It’s the players’ determination that has Sarah hooked.
Sarah’s appreciation for the Raptors and the values they embody has trickled down to her kids the same way her own love was influenced by Done. “It’s nice to give those lessons to the kids as well,” Sarah said. When HuffPost Canada asked Beckham about his favourite player, he said, “Before this season it was Delon [Wright], but now it’s Danny [Green].”
“I just think he is a nice person,” said Beckham.
Tiny fans, unite!
Cindy Lim and Tristan Yeats are also raising their daughter, Harper, to love the Raptors. Lim and Yeats were watching Game 4 of the round one of the 2018 playoff season until moments before Harper was delivered.
“We had the playoffs streaming on the iPad but unfortunately had to miss the last few minutes of the game [because] that’s when Harper decided she was gonna come out,” Lim said.
She made her first courtside appearance at 11 days old.
Harper’s popular instagram account features lots of Raptors pride, though her popularity rose out of a 50-state adventure in the U.S. Harper can be seen crawling for the first time in an attempt to reach a tiny Raptors basketball purchased at a game.
Yeats became a fan after attending a 1989 game while on exchange in Canada. Lim first experienced the Raptors when the couple moved to Toronto for work at the end of 2015. During their time in the city, the pair saw Raptors games at least every other week.
The couple said they became fans after seeing the way the city championed their sports teams, including the Raptors. “I love the atmosphere of the games ... And just everyone getting behind the Raptors in Canada, it’s just second to none,” Lim said.
They also appreciate the inclusive and diverse nature of the fans.“When you see the crowds that go along to the games, you see young and old, men and women, black and white, and everything in between,” said Yeats. They see Toronto in the fans.
At their core, “We are just little Australians that love the Raptors,” Lim said.
Lowry is heading down under with Team USA to play the Australian national team in August. The family, including little Harper, is contemplating making the trip from Canberra to Melbourne to see him play.