The Toronto Raptors became the first Canadian team to win an NBA Championship. Although there have only been two Canadian teams in the modern NBA, this was a big deal to America’s neighbors up north. More than a year after they first hoisted the trophy, the Raptors are making history again — and they didn’t have to do a single thing to accomplish it.
The Toronto Raptors’ championship
When Kawhi Leonard went to the Raptors before the 2018-19 season, details The Lead, nobody knew what to make of it. The former San Antonio Spur was coming off of a season he barely played in. Leonard’s contract was up at the end of the year. When the team traded longtime fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan for him, it marked a change in guard. However, despite its short shelf-life, this move helped the Raptors achieve the ultimate goal.
Leonard played his best basketball yet in Toronto. He carried a higher offensive load than he had in San Antonio. But the team looked good on games where he wasn’t playing. With LeBron James’ dominance of the Eastern Conference over, Leonard had the keys to something special.
The Raptors entered the playoffs as a favorite. While the 76ers and Bucks were right up there with them, Leonard proved to be the missing link between them and a ring. He put the 76ers away on a heartbreaking series-winner, and after falling against the Bucks at the beginning of the series, he sent them home in the Eastern Conference Finals.
By the time the NBA Finals came around, the Raptors had momentum. A beat-up Warriors team could not keep up with the Raptors. After six games, Toronto hoisted the trophy. Leonard moved on to the Clippers in the offseason, but the Raptors remain a threat to this day.
Preventing the championship hangover
Although the Raptors were one of the league’s best teams when Leonard didn’t play the previous year, many assumed that their days of domination were over. Kyle Lowry is on the wrong side of 30, and budding star Pascal Siakam had never had a leading role with a team. Despite these doubts, the Raptors showed that they were a threat to the rest of the league.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks had the decisive lead over the East, the Raptors held second place with a three-game lead over the third-place Boston Celtics. While the team will have to work hard as they head into the end of the season, they have proven that their brand is more than just a single player, it is about teamwork and relentless play.
Nick Nurse has the team playing as well as it did during its championship season. While Leonard’s absence is inarguably working against them, the team refuses to let it define them. Time will tell whether they can do the unthinkable and repeat, but while they wait, they can hang their hats on the history they made.
The NBA season typically ends in mid-to-late June. But thanks to the suspended season, details The Score, the Raptors are still the defending champions in July. Through no credit of their own, the Raptors became the longest-reigning champions in NBA history.
The previous record-holder, the 1981 Boston Celtics, lasted 390 days after the playoffs were pushed back three weeks in 1982. This gave them enough time to secure the record. The record shows not only how unprecedented the suspended season is, but just how unique the Raptors’ championship remains over a year after Leonard left the team.