I Remember: My Toronto Raptors Story

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Thoughtful rants on just about anything. https://peterforte.com

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