Two months into life as a Raptor, Scottie Barnes has already won over Toronto. It seems the feeling's mutual.
The 2021 fourth-overall pick with the thousand-watt smile endeared himself to the Raptors faithful from the very beginning, his embrace of the franchise and its nation of fans immediately evident. On Friday, he returned the favour, putting his love for his new club into words in a piece penned to his new city in The Players’ Tribune.
“I’m really starting to feel like a Raptor for real,” Barnes wrote. “Like I have my own part to play in the next chapter of this story. I don’t feel like I even have the words yet to say how much this all means to me.
“But I’ll just say this: Toronto, it feels like we’re about to do something special together.”
Though Barnes’ selection seemed to initially brew up some surprise, if not controversy, given the other names on the board expected to be called in the 2021 NBA Draft’s No. 4 spot, the doubts dissipated quickly. For those slow to come around, Barnes quelled all worries with some sterling early performances in Raptors colours, debuting with a 18-point, 10-rebound, five-assist do-everything line as his squad kicked off an impressive Summer League run.
By and large, though, he felt the love from Day 1, he says, the masses that pack Jurassic Park and Scotiabank Arena showing their support online for now.
“There’s nobody like Toronto Raptor fans. I promise you,” Barnes wrote. “Not even 24 hours after I got drafted I had like 80–100k followers JUST from Raptors fans. Y’all work fast! ... And y’all aren’t playing around. Y’all are about basketball and y’all are real. The love of the game is genuine. That’s what it’s all about with this fan base. And honestly, that’s all I’m about too.”
It’s been the same story from the franchise itself, Barnes says, writing of the instant connection he felt to the organization after meeting team president Masai Ujiri, and heaping praise on the team for going the extra mile in celebrating his 20th birthday last month.
“At this point the best gift I already got was being drafted to this team. But they had other plans. We pull up to the spot, and the entire team and staff were there with a birthday cake and balloons, and everything. And they sang the song and all that,” Barnes recalled. “And I guess I just wanted to tell that story because that’s the thing about this franchise. They actually genuinely care about everyone on the team.
“It was like being with family.”
.@ScottBarnes561 already got love for the city of Toronto and Raptors fans.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 17, 2021
It’s been a whirlwind pair of months for the Florida State alum, from draft night to his first tours of Toronto staples, complete with a spin through Drake’s house — “I can’t lie, his basketball court is just as nice as you’re picturing,” Barnes wrote — to his first taste of action on the court. In two weeks, he’ll take the next step, his squad opening the 2021-22 pre-season against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 4, returning home to the Scotiabank Arena for the first time since February 2020.
For his part, Barnes says he’s champing at the bit, ready to put in the hours and kick off this next chapter.
“I remember walking into the green room after Adam Silver called my name, and some people from the front office were waiting for me. We were shaking hands, and making introductions, and I was so excited I could barely get the words out,” Barnes wrote. “But there was one main thing that I really wanted to get across about myself: I’m ready to work. Not ease into it, not half-do things or make excuses because I’m one of the new guys.
“I’m ready to work. I’m ready to grind. I’m ready to WIN. And I could tell that the feeling was definitely mutual.”