The Toronto Raptors’ historic run in the NBA Finals has enraptured — sorry, come back! — basketball fans across the city and the country.
And with a potential championship win riding on Monday’s Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors, the excitement and the stakes are higher than ever.
Still, no matter what happens, the Raptors’ incredible campaign this season has already given us a whole lot of firsts worth celebrating.
Let’s start with the win that kicked off this wild, magical roller-coaster
On May 25, after stunning everyone with four wins in a row, the Raptors took down the Milwaukee Bucks to crown themselves Eastern Conference champions for the first time ever.
“Fear the deer?” Sure. Thanks for playing.
The reality immediately set in: The Raptors were going to the NBA Finals.
Thousand of fans swarmed the streets of downtown Toronto, climbing on top of cars, streetcars and buses.
Bonus historic moment: Toronto police saying it was “impressive” they didn’t have to arrest anyone in the wild celebration.
From there, a flood of firsts was unleashed
After the Eastern Conference win, the Raptors’ date with destiny was set: May 30, 2019 would mark the team’s first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals.
This was real life, though it still feels like fantasy.
Twenty-four years after the franchise’s first steps, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and co. were set to face off against the Golden State Warriors, and an entire country was cheering them on.
Watch: Toronto’s campaign to keep Kawhi Leonard is over the top. Story continues below.
Of course, Toronto being in the finals meant the finals had to be in Toronto
This, until now, had never happened. No NBA Finals game has ever taken place outside the U.S because, well, no non-American team has ever made it this far.
So with the Golden State Warriors’ visit to the Scotiabank Arena for Game 1, another first was etched into the history books.
The Raptors also emerged victorious in that game, which marked the first-ever NBA Finals game to be played and won in Canada.
‘O Canada’ — Live from the NBA Finals
By hosting the Warriors at home, the Raptors unlocked another achievement even before tip-off: the very-first rendition of ‘O Canada’ at the NBA Finals.
Yes, despite being invented by a Canadian, the game of basketball had yet to hear the country’s anthem at its most prestigious tournament.
That all changed with Game 1, when Canadian artists The Tenors performed the anthem.
A brief (but historic) bout of Linsanity
The Raptors’ Jeremy Lin didn’t get any time on the court until the last moments of Game 3 — and it was already in the bag for Toronto by the time he started.
Still, with that stint, Lin became the first East Asian-American to play in the NBA Finals, the South China Morning Post reported.
“I hope the next generation of Asian Americans never feel that their background is something to hide,” he wrote on Instagram.
“Wow, so many achievements,” you say to yourself, beaming. “Tell me about exactly one more because I have to go.”
You got it, friendly reader who hasn’t abandoned me yet.
For Game 4 in Oakland, the NBA Finals were broadcast for the very first time in Punjabi, with Canadian broadcasters Parminder Singh and Preet Randhawa carrying out the honour.
According to Global News, the two were approached by the NBA to help out with its “global outreach.”
“The amount of excitement that any sports fan would have and get the call to be able to call the games, it’s incredible,” Singh told Global.
We’re hoping to see even more firsts in this already mind-blowing run from the Raptors — the biggest, of course, being a glorious NBA championship victory.
Either way, the Raptors have guaranteed this season is one for the books.