The city of Toronto effectively shut down Monday morning, as the parade for the Raptors’ NBA championship win drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the downtown core. Decked out in Raptors gear new and old, fans took to the streets to cheer, celebrate, and — in many cases — dodge out of school or work.
We talked to a few of the fans who hit the streets to hear find out who they are, why they love the Raptors, and what their theories are on Kawhi Leonard’s plans for next year.
Evan, Collin, CJ and Vanessa Sam, from Raptors dates to Raptors family
Vanessa Sam: We were at the first Finals Game. It was exciting! No, [tickets] were not [cheap], but it was my Mother’s Day gift.
Collin Sam: It was exciting, it was unreal. We couldn’t really hear afterwards for a good two days. It was worth every cent. How many times do you get to come to the finals?
Vanessa: You never know when we’re going to be here again.
Collin: We’ve been Raptors fans forever.
Vanessa: [We’ve been into the Raptors] since we’ve been a couple, for 14 years.
Collin: We used to go for Friday night dates at Raptor games. Miller Lite guys nights. We used to go to Sprite Zone games.
We kind of boycotted for a time, because we wanted to see them in the finals. We didn’t go to any games this year, until they got the finals. It was all worth it.
Vanessa: The kids are fans too.
Collin: Absolutely. Evan and CJ are huge Raptors fans. They love Kyle Lowry.
Vanessa: And Kawhi Leonard.
Collin: And Kawhi. So hopefully he stays.
John and Lorraine Lloyd, enthusiastic newbies
John Lloyd: We’re fairweather fans, I guess.
Lorraine Lloyd: But we’re here! We’re pretty excited.
John: I think it’s the kind of thing you like to support. Getting here on the subway was a bit of a challenge. But we made it anyway, we made it.
Lorraine: This is the first parade we’ve ever been to [together].
John: This is the first parade I’ve been to since Princess [Elizabeth], before she was Queen, came to Montreal [in 1951].
Greg Marshall, keen sign-maker
This is for Kawhi Leonard, of course. Such an incredible series. It’s kind of, ka-wow.
And then: Vantastic, VanvVeet.
Those are the first two that popped into my mind. It would be nice if I had done one for all the players. But, you know, Lowry - the whole team.
Andre Ramrattan and Sabrina Dass, literal lifers
Sabrina Dass: I was born in 95, so ... I’ve been a fan for 24 years.
Andre Ramrattan: As soon as I could understand what the sport was, I started watching it. My older brothers kind of lead the way.
Sabrina: Same with me. As soon as I could understand it, [I was] right in.
Andre: As a kid, you’re all about the big dunks. But, then you get older, and you start to realize how much more is involved with the sport itself, besides the big highlights.
Andre: [At the beginning of the season,] the feeling was bittersweet. I was happy because Kawhi Leonard is actually someone I watched from the beginning. It really sucked seeing DeMar DeRozan go, but he’s always going to be one of my favourite Raptors of all time.
Sabrina: Honestly, I was really upset. I didn’t know who Kawhi was, and I didn’t know what he could do for us. But now look!
Darrel Smith and Alex Raphael, fashionable fans
Darrel Smith: I’ve been a fan [for a long time]. I saw them in the Sky Dome. It was horrific.
Damon Stoudamire, in the early days, was a fabulous player. Vince Carter, of course. I think he was treated kind of unfairly by the fans. Fabulous player. Oh, and Alvin Williams.
Alex Raphael: I’m a newly minted fan. I used to think they were truly geeky. I mean, their gear, that purple, the Barney t-shirt logo ...
Darrel: I didn’t like the purple either. Fashion crime.
Prince and Richy, fun guys
Richy: I’m from Montreal, but I’ve been a Raptors fan since Vince Carter, Chris Bosh. This is Canada’s team.
Prince: I’ve been living in Toronto for six years now. It’s the culture. You cannot be living in Toronto without loving the Raptors.
Richy: We went to a finals game together, Game 5. The atmosphere was... wow. There’s no word for that.
[Kawhi is my favourite] now, yeah. If he leaves ... I don’t know.
I believe. I believe he’s gonna stay. Just from the parade, he’s gonna see all the love that the city’s gonna show to him.
Prince: Even his personality matches the Toronto team. He’s not like a crazy guy, he’s more quiet.
Richy: You have the whole country behind you!
Prince: There’s two million people here! What else can you ask for?
Georgia, Maria, Mila and Nick, tiny superfans
Maria: This is the first time they won the championship and we’re at this parade instead of school.
Mila: And it’s the first time in 24 years that the Raptors win the championship.
Maria: And the parade’s way better than school.
Nick: I like the Raptors because of Kawhi Leonard.
Georgia: My favourite’s Marc Gasol, because his birthday’s after mine.
Mila: I stayed up late to watch the game, but I fell asleep in the third period.
Nick: [If I could meet the Raptors,] I would say they’re the best team in the world.
Mila: I would say that since they’re the only Canadian team they’re the best team. And that I’m really excited that from 24 years, you guys finally win the NBA finals.
Maria: They’re the best team in the world because Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the whole planet.
Jason and Michelle Tang, possibly judging you
Jason Tang: [I’ve been a fan] since day one.
Michelle Tang: I’m a bandwagoner, I will admit it.
Jason: We’ve been waiting for over 24 years. This year I felt like we would win, and we did. Everyone’s been waiting for this.
Michelle: If you are not here today, you should be ashamed.
Marco Baltzar, offerer of love
This is huge. This is history, and I don’t know how many more times I will see this in my lifetime.
I don’t own a restaurant so I can’t really do the Ka’wine and Dine thing. Not a real estate mogul, someone’s already got his house. But we’re going to give him this love 24/7, 365.
Derek Sandy, the DeMar fan
[I loved] watching DeMar DeRozan make awesome dunks and just great plays. I loved a lot of our players who were traded, but we got great guys in return.
[I’m excited to see what] Pascal Siakam [does next]. He is crazy [good], and he’s a young guy who’s still getting better.
Zoey Rasheed, Shaina Leigh, and Ashlei Hines (not pictured), who love that the city feels united
Zoey Rasheed: [I’ve been a fan] since the beginning, 24 years ago.
Ashlei Hines: [The best moment was the game-winning shot against Philadelphia,] the spin and bounce. Everyone watching the game were either on the edge of their seats or standing up right in front of the TV, basically having their fingers crossed hoping that the ball went in, and it did.
Shaina Leigh: Everyone feels united over the same thing and it’s just awesome.
Ashlei Hines: It means everything to us because we are not really sure if this will happen again. It really is something for the books.