Party at the parade: A letter to my younger self as a Raptors fan


Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry celerates during the 2019 Toronto Raptors Championship parade in Toronto on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn / CP)

Dear Donnovan Jr.,

I’m here to tell you there is going to be a championship parade in your city. You’ll have to wait awhile – 24 years – but the team that authors it will make it worth it.

Remember that time you were shooting hoops and playing “Slam” by Onyx on the Sony boombox you got as a birthday gift? It seemed like the biggest deal in the world that Vince Carter was mentioned in a hip-hop song and you loved that… until a teacher screamed, “Stop! This is not a ghetto.” That was the first time, but not the last time, you felt shame around basketball. (I know you wondered whether you would have been yelled at for playing hockey while listening to Nirvana… I don’t blame you for wondering that.)

But guess what – the sport isn’t going to be associated with ghettos soon. It’ll be the sport all the big brands and Fortune 500 companies want to be associated with. Don’t let that misguided teacher or anyone else dismay you. Basketball is beautiful and it is Canadian.

And Canada’s connection with basketball will look pretty different in a few years.

The biggest hip-hop star on the planet will be affiliated with the team. (And he is, by the way, Canadian.)

At some point, each game will be a guaranteed sellout – because of the home team, not the visiting one.

And when they get to the Finals, tickets are going to cost what it would cost you to put a down payment on a house.

I promise you, you’re on the right side of history, but do me a favour – don’t hate the Vancouver Grizzlies. I know you do – and I get it – but when the Raps succeed, everyone will realize that they miss having another Canadian NBA city in the mix.

Also, don’t let the jokes hurt your feelings. When your friends ridicule you about wanting Raptors tickets over Toronto Maple Leafs tickets, don’t worry, one day those haters will be talking about how basketball is the most entertaining live sport there is. In fact, one day people are going to line up to watch games outside! Not just in Toronto, across the country. It probably sounds crazy to you. It’s crazy to me too.

Remember the time you had to tape Vince Carter’s dunk competition on VHS because you were at a school dance? Soon basketball will have its own dedicated channel making the rewatch less problematic.

And the joy you felt watching Carter shut down Oracle Arena, oops I mean Oakland Coliseum with his dunk? One day, the Raptors will shut down that arena for good when they win the championship in front of the Golden State Warriors’ fans.

It’s going to be an inconvenient ride, so sit tight. You’re going to have to stay up late and sit through hockey highlights to get a quick glance at the basketball ones. You’re going to have to have all the best basketball shoes shipped here, as the dope colourways will be impossible to find in Canada. But by the time they win, all of that will change. Not only will you get all of the Jordans in your size, but there will be a Jordan brand store in your city!

A Canadian national team will win a world championship and instead of arguing about why pro players don’t make time to play for Canada, you’ll be arguing about which pro players won’t make the team – a team you’ll never be remotely close to making since you top out as a 5-9 point guard.

Speaking of which, save your money and don’t buy the weighted shoes you saw in Slam – they won’t help your vertical. What will help you is studying the game and the people in it. You can’t have enough role models, so don’t be shy to look to basketball for some.

Eventually, the Raptors will have a lot of role models – a centre from the Congo who embodies sacrifice, a point guard from Philadelphia who is as proud of his kids as he is of his team, a player from Taiwan who uses his intellect to inspire, a coach who proves that chipping away at a goal is the only way to achieve it, since nothing worthwhile ever comes without work and a league superstar who lets his actions do the talking.

The team will also have a president who’s going to go from sleeping on couches as an unpaid scout to being offered $10 million a year from a rival team! He’s going to be so cool the president of the United States is going to want to hang with him and watch the Raptors play. And that president is going to be BLACK!

And basketball will mean family.

Your dad will work two jobs to bring you and your brother to games.

Your first date with your future wife will be at a Raptors game.

You’ll bond with your grandfather by taking him to games.

And your future son’s first experience with the team will be seeing them win a championship. He’ll never know what it’s like for the Raptors NOT to be cool.

The best part is, this is a team you and your friends chose. They weren’t passed down to you by family like the Leafs or Jays – you chose them, so when they win it’ll be that much sweeter, because you ALWAYS believed.

And when they celebrate their championship, take the day off work, party at the parade and buy all the championship memorabilia you can get your hands on. (Unlike the weighted shoes, it’ll be money well spent.)

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