I remember the beginning.
I was young, but I remember.
I remember being drawn to the striped orange ball, before knowing what it was going to mean.
I remember dribbling alone in the driveway, while the scraping of hockey sticks on asphalt echoed elsewhere.
I remember Damon Stoudamire, the Mighty Mouse, the Rookie of The Year.
I remember going to Raptorball camp at the downtown Y and high-fiving Doug Christie.
I remember when I didn’t care about winning, because all that mattered was that I had a team of my own.
Then I remember the 1998 draft.
I remember when things changed.
I remember when a hockey city evolved
I remember watching a man not just change a culture, but create one.
I remember seeing less kickball at recess, and more Bump — less ball hockey on Sundays, and more Around The World.
I remember what Vince Carter started for my city and my sport.
I remember the first time we got swept, and not feeling sad because I believed this was the start of something special.
I remember Alvin Williams reaffirming that belief by sealing our first playoff series win a year later.
I remember Vince versus A.I.
I remember when a 50-point performance was an expectation, not an exception.
I remember Game 7.
I remember running outside during the final timeout to yell at my sister down the street to come inside because Vince was about to do it.
Then I remember crying when he didn’t.
I remember being betrayed
I remember drafting a skinny guy out of Georgia Tech who could help my hero find his magic again.
But then I remember my hero quitting on us.
And I remember my hero becoming a villain.
I remember when promising turned to middling, and middling turned to obsolescence.
I remember when we sucked.
I remember when Chris Bosh eventually led us to the playoffs again, but I remember it not being the same.
I remember it being a formality — a first-round exit a foregone conclusion.
I remember Primo Pasta, but I try not to.
I remember Chris Bosh leaving, but not being upset because I knew he wasn’t the guy.
Then I remember when we sucked again — like really sucked.
But I also remember a tweet from a rookie saying, “Don’t worry, I got us…”
I remember ‘pound the rock’
I remember when we tried to get Steve Nash, but ended up with Kyle Lowry.
And I remember being disappointed.
I remember when Masai tried to blow it all up, but somehow the opposite happened.
I remember Brooklyn.
I remember what it felt like to be hopeful again, despite losing a playoff series.
I remember watching two teammates become best friends.
I remember when those best friends chose to play here not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
I remember when making the playoffs became the norm.
And I also remember when just making the playoffs was no longer enough.
I remember those best friends getting stopped short every year because of a King.
And I remember knowing that those best friends had to be split up if we wanted a shot, no matter how painful it was to admit.
I remember when we risked it all
I remember when a man was fired the same year he won Coach of the Year.
I remember when DeMar, our loyal all-star, was traded for a mysterious talent who reportedly epitomized the opposite.
I remember the emotional backlash — the anger from fans and the hurt in his best friend’s voice.
I remember the rumours of Kawhi not wanting to play here.
But I remember trusting Masai, because I always trusted Masai.
I remember load management.
I remember slapping Golden State by 30, but not caring because the regular season meant nothing.
I ultimately remember waiting for the playoffs — for the real season to start.
I remember watching a man become a legend
I remember losing game one to Orlando, but never doubting that we’d crush them afterwards — which we did.
I remember meeting a foe from the past that was familiar yet foreign.
I remember being pushed to another Game 7.
I remember having those not again thoughts that I convinced myself were gone, creep back into my mind.
I remember anxiously waiting for the moment to prove that the trade was worth it — that the risk paid off.
And I remember when that moment happened.
I remember our new superstar, almost exactly 18 years later to the day, having an opportunity to make the same shot that my hero couldn’t.
I remember holding my breath.
I remember when seconds felt like hours — and the laws of physics were seemingly defied.
I remember what it felt like to watch each of those bounces — the grip of our demons loosening with each one.
I remember when the shot dropped, and Kawhi Leonard — a symbol of stoicism and quietude — couldn’t contain his emotions, and neither could I.
I remember history
I remember getting back to a conference finals, and one where I believed we could win, despite what the American media thought.
I remember going down 2–0, and still believing we had a chance.
Because I remember understanding what it meant to have the best player in the world.
I remember watching our new superstar — the same player who wasn’t going to report; who wasn’t going to try hard for a team he was already planning his departure from — will his team to three straight victories against a team that hadn’t experienced that all year.
I remember, for the first time, being on the right side of a conference final elimination game.
I remember being down by 15 and not knowing what to feel — anxious, but ultimately numb to it all as it was still so new.
And then I remember when it all came together.
I remember Fred hitting a shot, Kyle hitting two, and Marc bringing me to my feet — Norm driving baseline, Pascal playing tough, and Serge with authority.
I remember a left-handed tomahawk that shook a city to its core — that made Toronto and its team finally believe in more.
Then I remember watching Kyle Lowry smile with 3.9 seconds left because he believed it too.
I remember the buzzer, the hats, the jubilation.
I remember Kyle hugging the man who traded away his best friend, and then telling him this isn’t finished.
I remember believing in a title
I remember waking up this morning having to convince myself this is real.
I remember watching replays of pre-game, in-game, and post-game — of Jurassic Park, Union Station, and Yonge-Dundas Square.
I remember feeling like a kid again.
Then I remember our greatest challenge is yet to come.
I remember we are playing a team that not even The King we feared could defeat.
But then I remember what we’ve come through to be here.
I remember Marcus Camby, Alvin Williams, and Mo Pete — Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson, and JV.
I remember we have shot at doing something for everyone who has ever put on a Raptors jersey and embraced playing for this foreign and too-often forgotten team.
I remember we have a shot at doing something that transcends this city, this province, and this country — a shot at winning our own NBA championship while toppling a seemingly-invincible dynasty.
So now I remember feeling like Kyle last night.
I remember feeling like this isn’t finished.