Last week, I was at Real Sports Toronto with the Raptors fandom peaking at an all-time high. With the Toronto Raptors making their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, the city, country, and fans all over the world are coming together. Yes, that includes some band-waggoners but nonetheless, it is awesome to see so many people come together to celebrate this major milestone. Because it was at Real Sports I witnessed something special.
With many individuals scavaging throughout piles of Raptors merchandise trying to own at least one prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, I saw one man lift up a black Marc Gasol jersey t-shirt and ask a customer beside him “Is this a good player to wear?”. The fellow customer said “Yes.” The future owner of that Marc Gasol t-shirt would go on to say “Thank you so much. I didn’t really watch them, but I just really want to support my city.”. Hearing that made my day because whether or not he was new to the country and whether or not he watched the Raptors play before, he was proud of the team to making this far. It’s interesting because Toronto Raptors founder John I. Bitove stated that when he help founded the team his target audience included women, children, and newcomers to Canada.
If you’ve been following me or know me personally, you know I have been a Raptors fan as a child and have supported my team throughout the worst so I am truly still processing everything that is going on right now. But that moment at Real Sports made me wonder of all the other people that are just discovering the Toronto Raptors and wanted to know more about the guys on the team and why their personal journey getting here is just as important.
Therefore, I decided to compile a Top 10 list of interesting facts about the members of this team that you may have not known. If you know the meaning behind CHIP Lifestyle you shouldn’t be surprised to see common themes and elements on this list. Full disclosure, there are going to be way more than 10 facts. As for that Marc Gasol shirt, well yeah it was a good choice to get his t-shirt and you’ll see below why!
10. Linsanity – Jeremy Lin’s Statement on the NBA
In case you don’t remember, but a couple years ago something phenomenal happened. Linsanity. If you need a quick catch up, then I recommend you watch the video above (SB Nation does a lot of amazing videos so if you’re into that check them out). Nonetheless, that amazing streak Jeremy Lin had while on the New York Knicks, including the dagger buzzer beater against the Toronto Raptors, was more than just an impressive solo performance. The Harvard alumni’s journey to that point was not easy as he was always looked at as a bench player. It’s unfortunate that he is not getting minutes right now but Jeremy Lin proved then that he does have that fight. But more importantly his journey and series of events inspired a lot of people, especially Asian Americans. Representation matters and that’s what was happening. It was awesome to see the inspiration he had for all minorities who have dreams of making it to the league and it was great to see that the media started to become educated on how to actually handle other cultures and their presence in the league. You can see more and check out the documentary on the Linsanity craze over here.
9. Serge Ibaka is one of the youngest of 18 Children and is also a Celebrity Youtuber
Yes, you read that right. The player that wears #9 who we also know as “MaFuzzy Chef” is part of a large family. As written in this article in the New York Times, Ibaka has overcome hardship with his family and living situation growing up in the Republic of Congo during the Civil War. Ibaka is known to not back down but I guess the hardship he encountered growing up helped fuel that energy he has for enjoying life to the fullest and immersing in different cultures. You can get to know more about him, his lifestyle and other fellow Raptor players on his YouTube channel through his popular YouTube series, How Hungry Are You? Note: There are so many good episodes, but I decided to go with the Bench Mob episode because this is the most you will see OG talk and I absolutely loved when Pascal calls out Serge!
8. Stormin’ Norman Almost Didn’t Make It Out of His Battle with Poverty
To be able to taste exotic meals from not being able to afford a meal, Bench Mob alumn almost gave up on his journey to make it to the NBA. He told the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) about why he plays with a chip on his shoulder and the upbringing he had which helped shaped the incredible work ethic he has. You can read the full article here, but Norm talks about not using his lunch money and skip meals so just so his mom can save some money as they were kicked out of houses, had the electricity cut off and so much more that no one should go through. Norm has always been one of my favorites ever since he got drafted. I relate to his mentality and admire how humble he is and the way he gives back as well. As Rachel Nichols mentioned on The Jump to Coach Nurse, a lot of the Raptors’ have their own personal brands and this includes Norman Powell. His clothing line is U.T.G. which stands for Understand The Grind, fitting for Norm’s mentality and story.
7. The Unique and Unreal Path to the NBA from Montreal’s Own
Another player who has dealt with his share of trying to make end’s meat is none other than the 2018-2019 G-Leauge MVP & DPOY and Canadian, Chris Boucher. I remember reading this article before and shocked about how his journey into the NBA. Boucher was born in Saint Lucia and moved with his mother to Canada when he was 5. He dropped out of school at age 16 and was washing dishes. He played basketball for a bit but never truly realized how good he was and how much he appreciates the game until the opportunity arose and one opportunity lead to the next which eventually lead to him securing a spot on the Raptors roster. Fun fact: before joining the Toronto Raptors he was actually signed and played for the Golden State Warriors from 2017 to 2018.
6. Kyle Lowry’s Annual Thanksgiving Assist
Kyle Lowry is undoubted leads the with passion, heart, and grit known for his selfless plays and doing what he can for the betterment of his team and family. Lowry demonstrates that off the court as well, and a prime example would be his annual Thanksgiving Assist. Kyle Lowry has been doing this service initiative for the past three years now in both Toronto and Philadelphia, where he is donating and delivering over 300 meals for the families that really need it. That touches me dearly because growing up I was one of those families so it’s nice to see that Kyle actually took it upon himself to do something like this to set a good example for his kids and everyone else while delivering a positive impact on Toronto’s community. Lowry is very family orientated and although he didn’t have a relationship with his father, he does what he can to make sure he sets a good example for his boys. You can read more about that here in the article he wrote for the Player’s Tribune.
5. Kawhi’s Limited Expression of Emotion and The Loss of His Father
Lowry is definitely a leader and captain on our squad and he continued to demonstrate his team-first mentality to make sure his fellow all-star and arguably the best player to wear the Raptor uniform felt welcomed and supported to help get to this stage. That player Lowry is helping is none other than Kawhi Leonard. They share a couple of similarities including their team-first mindset. However, unlike Lowry who didn’t have a relationship with his father, Kawhi’s situation was the complete opposite, because he was really close to his.
I’ll admit, I only read the original local news article a couple weeks ago about Kawhi’s relationship with his father. He was really close to him but unfortunately, his father was murdered at a gas station at the young age of 43. He didn’t know how to handle it and his mother was worried because he didn’t really say much afterward about it and kept to himself when coping with the loss. It’s unfortunate because they still haven’t solved the case. The following night Kawhi played in high school game and absolutely dominated in tribute to his late father. Kawhi’s mother mentioned that he kept more to himself but when she saw him lift up the NBA Trophy and winning the NBA Finals MVP it really meant a lot to see how happy he was. You can read more about that over here in an article done by Heavy, as they even mention how Denzel Washington was in attendance the night Kawhi dominated his high school game.
4. Danny Green Dedication Led to NBA Finals History
What many people might have forgotten or not even know about Danny Green is that he set an NBA record in 2013 for the most 3-Pointers made in NBA Finals history with 7 in a game and then 27 in the series. He actually broke the prior record in front of the prior holder who he was currently facing, the legendary Ray Allen. Therefore, don’t use him as a scapegoat or forget what Danny brings to the team!
Nonetheless, Danny Green is used to not getting full support and belief like other members of the team. Despite a solid college career, his early years in professional basketball had obstacles and challenges. As you can see on the above post, he was out of the league early but those experiences helped shape the player he is today and the leader he is for this team. I do believe in Danny Green and I hope he can get his rhythm going for the rest of the series because I know he can! Also, if you wanted to know more about the Toronto Raptors check out Danny Green’s podcast with Yahoo Sports Canada and Harrison Sanford. Like Serge, they get a lot of the team to come through but they also reveal a lot in the episodes. Check out one a clip from one of the latest episodes below.
3. Coach Nick Nurse’s 30 Year Road to the NBA Finals
View this post on Instagram
20 years ago me and Nick Nurse made it to the #finals with the @mcrgiants lol… life and #thejourney is crazy. Fast forward me and Nurse back at it again with the @raptors … #historical night in #the6 last night. #toronto #canada y’all deserve this moment! Enjoy and embrace it! My man @easymoneyclo dropped another nice vid. Everyones reaction to my hoop game has been priceless. I wasn’t always the OG lmao. Keep telling you cats I could hoop a bit 🤷🏽♂️🤣… #wethenorth #nbafinals #ringchasin #ilovethisgame #history #manchestergiants #nicknurse #newkingoftheeast #5straight #buckets #headbandgang 🤫🤫 #BeYourOwnGoat
I told you before that I really think this team’s special and share a lot of similarities. I guess with me and my outlook it relates as their stories align with the story behind CHIP Lifestyle. However, it isn’t just the players. Nick Nurse also knows a thing or two about being rejected, turned down and taking the uncommon path to achieve his goals. The clip above posted by Toronto Raptors’ Assistant Coach, Phil Handy, is just one part of his story. Which also begs the question, does Nick Nurse even age!? Nevertheless, you can read more about Nurse’s persistence to get to the NBA as a coach and to continue to see his career grow in this feature done by Sportsnet.
2. Marc Gasol Risks His Own Life to Save Others
I told you at the beginning of the article why that customer made the right choice by getting a Gasol shirt, and the above video just shows why. Like his older brother Pau, Marc does like to give back the best he can. An issue that is not getting much attention is the fact that there are individuals fleeing Libya but become stranded and die in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Marc teamed up with Open Arms to help rescue migrants stranded at sea. For the read and more details about Marc’s rescue mission, you can read it here but the video does most of the explaining. Warning there are some images in the above video that may be difficult to watch.
A. Steady Freddy’s Bet on Himself
Like most of these guys, Fred Vanvleet had to prove himself to the doubters and himself to secure a spot on this team and this league. His clothing line FVV notable motto is “Bet On Yourself” which is what he did to beat the odds. You can see in the video below that moment when he was selected to fill the final roster spot and how uncertain he was if he was even going to make the league. Fast forward to today, he’s playing in the NBA Finals. Note: If you haven’t heard of Open Gym, you really should. I am not sure if they have won any awards for this series but the cinematography and overall production is amazing! It’s definitely a series worth the watch!
B. The Superfan – Nav Bhatia
With the #Raptors about to hit the global stage, I’m going to share a story about what makes Toronto, and Canada, so special. It’s about a guy you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of.
[Hint: It's about racism, sports, and why you'll end up cheering for 🍁]
— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) May 26, 2019
There was no way I was going to do this post and the awesome stories that the key people of this team brings without including the fan that hasn’t missed a single game since the team’s inception in 1995. That is none other than the superfan that all Raptors fans and players have the utmost respect for, Nav Bhatia. The above thread has gone viral and it rightfully should as Muhammad Lila from CNN created an incredible twitter thread sharing Nav’s story. It’s only a couple of tweets but you get to learn more about this awesome fan and his positive impact on others, including the Toronto Raptors.
1. The Reason Why Pascal Wears Number 43
Humble, Hustle and Heart… Pascal Siakam knows how to perfectly describe his game and lifestyle. Like Norm, Pascal is another favourite of mine ever since he joined the team. It’s hard to hate on a guy who plays with so much heart and puts a genuine smile on the fans and teammates. It’s incredible to see his development but also the league and fans all over finally taking notice of the incredible work he has put in. Like Kawhi, the Cameroon native also lost his father when he was young who was also wanted to see his son shine in the NBA. He fulfilled his father’s dream of making it to the league but Spicy P has always put his family first because as mentioned in an article he wrote for the Players’ Tribune he wears Number 43 because (4) represents his father and three brothers and (3) in honour of his mother and two sisters.
I hope you enjoyed this resource and reference filled list about some of the awesome members that make up our 2019 NBA Finals Roster. Let me know what fact you were most surprised about and your thoughts below! Please make sure you subscribe by following the site via email so you don’t miss out on future content!