In 1995, Canada got its first NBA team when the Toronto Raptors joined the mix. Their fans have always been behind them and they made the playoffs ten times over the years, but they never made it to the finals.
Last weekend, the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks in game six at home after winning the previous away game.
They said it couldn’t be done.
There are so many bright lights on the team but Kawhi Leonard really stands out.
I heard a segment with Jim Richards on Newstalk 1010 last week where he interviewed Leonard’s high school basketball coach Tim Sweeney. The coach said Leonard only started playing basketball in his sophomore year of high school but that he noticed right away when Leonard transferred to his school that he had something special.
Sweeney called his dad who was an award-winning basketball coach and told him to come out to see Kawhi play. They both agreed. He was NBA-material.
When Kawhi was sixteen years old, his father was shot to death while working in his car wash business. Kawhi found out after a Friday night basketball game. He phoned the coach the next day and said he would be there for the Saturday night game. The coach told him to do what he felt he needed to do but to take as much time off as he wanted. Kawhi said he would be there.
He scored 17 points and collapsed into his mother’s arms at the end of the game.
He was only sixteen.
The coach said he is a very hard worker. Practicing moves and plays for hours so that they look easy when it counts.
As they say, the trophies are not won at competitions. They are won during the hours of blood, sweat and tears.
That practice is what led to the buzzer beater shot by Leonard that got the Raptors into the semi-finals.
And it’s what helped them rally back from behind in the most recent games.
How many times have we listened to the stories in our heads that said, ‘You won’t make the shot. You can’t win the game. It’s impossible to close the deal outside your own environment.’?
Confidence comes from believing in yourself. Knowing that it’s always any given Sunday. Anything is possible.
As we clear our schedules to watch the Raptors in their first ever championships, may we never forget the obstacles that were overcome and the years of grit and determination that preceded this moment.
We the north.