It’s Sunday, May 12, 2019: game seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2019 NBA playoffs. Toronto is down 89-90 with just a couple of seconds to go in the last quarter and faces not only a potential loss but an elimination from the playoffs as well. Toronto falls silent as Kawhi Leonard, the all-star and former ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ winner shoots for three points from the far corner. The ball bounces not once, not twice, but four times off the rim in what most fans felt like was an eternity sinking in. The crowd roars and Leonard’s teammates surround him. They cheer him on to celebrate his shot that drew attention from around the world.
Celebration immediately after Kawhi’s game seven buzzer beater. / Source: Frank Gunn (The Canadian Press via AP)
Just a few weeks later, it seems as though the Raptors have not skipped a beat. Starting off the series down 0-2 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors are now one of only five teams in the history of the NBA playoffs to have ever come back from such a deficit - but that did not bother the Raptors. They proceeded to win the next two games at home, followed by a win on the road and another win at home to take the series. The Raptors, who have been a leading contender for numerous years in the Eastern Conference, have now made the NBA finals for the first time since being established in 1995. After winning their division five of the last six years, but not able to settle into the extremely competitive nature of the playoffs, the Raptors seemed to finally find their stride after trading for Kawhi Leonard, one of the best players in the league and arguably the best player in this year’s playoffs thus far.
Now, heading into the finals, Raptors are seeing support of a magnitude unprecedented in the “6ix.” However, as most Canadian teams find out in their respective playoffs, it is not solely their city that supports them but the country as a whole. According to Sportsnet, Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals was the most watched NBA game ever in Canada and reached 6.8M Canadians.
Thinking of catching a glimpse of history first-hand? You might want to think again. The cheapest tickets are going for upwards of $1,100 CAD, with courtside tickets running for a cool $55,000 CAD.
As the previous years have shown, facing the Golden State Warriors in the finals will be anything but an easy task. Dominating the league, the Warriors have been the NBA champions three of the previous four years. With an all-star lineup, the Warriors-Raptors series will surely be an exciting one. As we head into the first finals in the history of this team - one thing is for sure: no matter a win or loss, Toronto will stand behind and support their beloved Raptors.