The Raptors Are Champs

Enjoy the hell out of it, Toronto; you deserve it. 

Jim Rome
June 14, 2019 - 9:21 am
Kawhi Leonard

USA Today


The Toronto Raptors are the NBA champions. That’s something that’s never been said before on this show and it’s being said now. And here are a few other things that had never been said: much maligned Kyle Lowry is an NBA champion. Marc Gasol is an NBA champion. Fred Bleeping VanVleet is an NBA champion. Of course Kawhi is an NBA champion, but he already had one. And he had a Finals MVP, but he sure as hell earned that second one.

There was so much that went down last night, I don’t even have time to get to it all in one take. Hell, I’m not even sure I can cover the first quarter in one take. The first 12 minutes had everything, starting with Lowry who as unconscious, and gave them exactly the start they needed in a barn that was peaking for the defending champs.

Here are the first three baskets of the night: Lowry layup, Lowry three, Lowry three.

He came out on a personal 8-0 lead and even after Golden State scored, he had another three to make the score as follows: Lowry 11, Golden State, 2.

If you were wondering how the Raptors were going to show up after that painful ending to Game 5, Mr. Toronto Raptor had the answer. Kyle Lowry put the team on his back at the start. And as FVV said afterwards: "Nobody deserves it more than that guy, man. People crap on him and talk bad about him more than any other player in this league that I’ve seen. Our own fans kill him and he's taken the brunt of a lot of slander over the years and he takes it like a champ."

And then Lowry was joined by Pascal Siakam, who was draining threes. But because it was Game 6, Klay Thompson came up huge. Game 6 Klay isn’t just a nickname, it’s a lifestyle. And he was keeping the Warriors in it. They broke out a 2-3 zone to confuse the Raptors. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, Jamaal Magloire was going viral for the shot of him standing behind the Raptors bench using a paper cup as a megaphone. And that was still all in the first quarter.

I was gassed myself after those first 12 minutes, and I was just sitting on my couch in my living room. And the second quarter was just as good. Two elite teams going at each other, showing a helluva lot pride and leaving it all out there. And it didn’t slow down in the third quarter either.

There was Klay hitting an absolutely ridiculous three to tie it at 76.

And then shockingly, and I guess at this point, maybe it should be… but the worst possible thing happened. Klay Thompson went down.

Freaking horrible. Absolutely terrible. The overhead camera shot that showed his reaction as he lay on the floor was gut-wrenching. He was helped off the court, down the tunnel…you know he’s done. But then the next thing you know, he’s back out there on the floor, shooting free throws, and making them, with what turned out to be a torn ACL.

What an absolute legend. I will get to the heart and the toughness of this Warriors team in a moment, because they deserve their own take just for pure toughness alone, but that was massive. What an incredible moment.

Not only did he make the two free throws, he was heading back down the court to play defense. Are you kidding me?!?!

As Draymond said later: “You see him try to run back down the floor, like, what are you doing?”  

Dudes out there with a shredded knee but didn’t want to leave the game. He told Steve Kerr he just needed a couple minutes rest and he’d go back in, and then moments later you see him leaving the arena on crutches. What an absolute Warrior in every single way possible. And this rap that the Warriors a soft, finesse team is the biggest load of crap ever. But more on that a little later.

Meanwhile, Steve Kerr has to figure who the hell he has left. The Warriors were down KD and down Klay, and started the fourth quarter with Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston, DeMarcus Cousins, and Draymond Green. And the jokes were flying – the Toronto Raptors were taking on the Santa Cruz Warriors. Did the Warriors have any walk-ons who could suit up?

But they just kept battling. They just kept grinding. Problem is, so did Toronto. FVV was hitting one soul crushing shot after another. You cannot tell me that guy is not a legend. If there isn’t a street in Toronto named after him by the end of the weekend, someone’s one doing their job. That dude was brass as hell. As Mark Gasol would later say, how can the guy even walk given the size of his nads. 

The Raptors took a six point lead with under three minutes to go. And stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Warriors wouldn’t go away. Not dead, can’t quit. Steph Curry was getting tripled teamed. It was like he was back at Davidson the way he was being defended, but Golden State still cut it to one and then Toronto had to in-bound and eat clock. But Danny Green had other plans and threw the ball away. And are you serious? After losing Klay… after going through everything that had gone through, and losing like half their roster, the Warriors still actually had a chance to still rip this thing?! Incredible: again, not dead, can’t quit: go ahead and Roll it.

Holy crap. That was a damn near perfect play and it got Curry exactly the kind of look he would’ve wanted…you couldn’t have asked for a better look for the guy you wanted to shoot it…. It just didn’t go down. Can you imagine if it had, for the final shot in Oracle?  It would have been the most Hollywood thing ever: Steph would have broke out his best shimmy ever. 

But it didn’t go down. The ball was on the floor. The Warriors dove on it and called time out. A timeout they didn’t have.

But don’t come in here with your oh-so-hilarious and not-at-all-tired Chris Webber jokes. They had to do it. Lying on the ground at midcourt, the game was over if they didn’t call the time out. Calling that time out, getting that technical, actually gave them the slightest of chances of keeping this thing alive. But it didn’t happen.

The Raptors finished it off. Well, the Raptors finished it off after the refs put their stamp on the final few seconds with a series of reviews that really sucked the life out of the moment. But here’s what you can’t sick the life out of – the Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. Kawhi Leonard is the Finals MVP.

I would say this team buried the narrative about the Raptors, but they did that a couple series ago. And this isn’t even the same Raptors team. This is a totally different group than the ones that came before it, than even the team they had last year. Different head coach, different starting lineup, everything about them is different.

And before I finish this, let me take a moment for Kawhi. And for all of you dopes who think it’s hilarious to crack on him because he’s different.

Or because you thought he wasn’t tough after his injury in San Antonio. Or that he faked the injury. And quit on the Spurs. If this Finals has taught us anything, it should be to not question anyone’s toughness. Ever. I don’t know what happened or who’s to blame or if there is any blame to go around. And knowing both how quiet the Spurs are and how quiet Kawhi is, we probably will never know. I don’t know how that got so twisted up and who owes who an apology.

But I know some of you owe him apology.

You all forgot how good he was. You forgot that he was an elite player, one of the best players in the league at both ends of the floor, and you just wanted to turn him into a bunch of jokes about his laugh and his shoe contract.

Because I’m sure your laugh is awesome and your kicks collection is incredible. Let me ask you this - how’s that crow sando taste. 

Yes, the guy is different. Different is good. It’s not just good, it’s awesome. I love the guy. I love his game and I love the fact that he’s not like everyone else. He’s unique. And he is an NBA champion.   A finals MVP with two different teams: only Kareem and LeBron had done that. Again. Marinate on that.

Don’t skip to where he’ll go in free agency. Or anything like that. Save that for next week. Or the week after. Appreciate what he and the Raptors just did. Because they are world champions. Yes, Golden State was banged up. Badly. But the Raptors have nothing to apologize. And don’t be coming around here with an asterisk either. The Larry O resides in the north: they were left for dead against Philly. And then again Milwaukee.  But now they’re the last team standing; and it’s an amazing story. An amazing story of grit, balls and ambition from management all the way day. Enjoy the hell out of it, Toronto; you deserve it.