Twenty-four years after they first hit the NBA court, the Toronto Raptors are two games into their first-ever NBA Finals. There’s a long list of names that got them to this point, and there’s no question DeMar DeRozan is one of them.
Though he’s not part of this year’s squad, his role on the Raptors had a huge impact on where the franchise is now. His name is in all of the Raptors’ history books — he’s the all-time leader in points and games, among other records — and on the backs of countless fans’ jerseys as the face of the team for the better part of a decade, during which he helped pave the Raptors’ way to being a perennial playoff contender and was a big part of Toronto’s transformation into a basketball town.
Now one full season into his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, DeRozan has come to terms — often publicly — with the trade that sent him Texas-bound in last summer’s multi-piece blockbuster deal that brought in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
In an insightful interview with Bleacher Report‘s Taylor Rooks, DeRozan expressed that his role with the Raptors, while drastically changed, remains a crucial one in hindsight.
“If it wasn’t for all the years and groundwork that I did before then, none of them things would’ve been possible. I fought, I sacrificed, I pushed the limits to where I had to be the sacrificial lamb,” he told Rooks on the latest episode of Take it There, which was released Tuesday. “You just have to sit back and understand, you are the reason so many things was even possible. To their credit, they probably felt like it was time to see what we could get to make that next jump.”
That next jump has taken the Raptors all the way to the franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals, with the series tied 1-1 against the Golden State Warriors. DeRozan said he’s been rooting for longtime best friend Kyle Lowry “to accomplish something that we tried to do all those years — and he has the opportunity to do it.”
The interview, during which Rooks and DeRozan go shoe shopping, covers several interesting topics and is certainly worth a watch whether you’re a Raptors fan or not.
Here are a few interesting excerpts:
On whether he felt more angry or hurt by last summer’s trade:
“More hurt. Because being invested from [age] 19 to, I was what, 28, everything you learned was from there. Everything you gained was from there. So for that to be gone like that, when you least expect it, it just throws you off guard. We’re human, at the end of the day, and it definitely hits you.”
On Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich:
“Popp is cool. He’s like a Don Corleone. He makes you look at him not just like the basketball coach but like a great individual. I called him the other day just to talk trash to him.
He’s not good with working iPhones and all that — he hates technology to a passion. He always talks about, he’s going to put something on Twitter, knowing he ain’t got a Twitter. He called it Twittergram.”
On finding a family with the Spurs through their post-game team dinner ritual:
“Mandatory. [Popovich] calls it ‘break bread.’ Win, lose or draw, after the game if we’re staying over in a city, we’ve got a team dinner, we’re going to break bread. We’re going to have a good night, a good evening. We’re family.”
On his shoe addiction — he has upwards of 600 pairs at home (!) and wears a brand new pair of kicks every single game:
“I don’t tie my shoes when I play. I do not lace my shoes at all. I like my shoes tight-fit, so when they’re brand new they fit my feet perfectly. So once I play, my shoe’s broken into, I’m done with them shoes. Need a new one next game.”
On if he dreams of playing for his hometown Lakers:
“I think you’d be crazy to say you never wanted to play at home. Everybody always want to have the opportunity, but I think I’m definitely happy where I’m at and I watch them from a distance.”
On his… rapping career?
“The last two summers, I’ve been thinking about just leaking a song and see what happens.”