Toronto Raptors Fan Favourite Week: Amir Johnson

Toronto Raptors - Amir Johnson (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Amir Johnson (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

As we continue Fan Favourite Week, we take a look at Amir Johnson, a guy who understood what it meant to play for the Toronto Raptors, on and off the court.

A time long, long ago when people still collected physical copies of CD’s (2013), Amir Johnson went out to an HMV at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto and purchased every copy of Drake’s third album “Nothing Was the Same”. He then went out into the square and handed out the copies to fans for free. Amir Johnson got it. He understood Toronto Raptors fans.

He arrived on the Raptors in 2009 and quickly endeared himself to the fanbase. He played the kind of hard-nosed game that made it feel like you were out there on the court with him. Though he never averaged more than 10 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, he shined by doing the little things. He set hard screens, he fought for rebounds, he focused on playing stellar defence.

He had the perfect on-court game for a fan favorite, the type of garbage man style that you made you appreciate his effort night-after-night.

However, Amir’s relationship with Raptors fans runs deeper than what he did on the court.

Being Raptor’s fan is kind of like being the type of person who gets dumped after a few dates even though “you’re really great” because your potential partner “didn’t feel the right connection”.

All through Raptors history, we’ve had superstar players come through, excel and decide to leave. It started with Damon Stoudamire demanding a trade, and then Vince Carter doing the same, Chris Bosh bolting to Miami to play with LeBron James, and most recently Kawhi Leonard leaving us after winning a championship. It hasn’t always been fun, guy.

In spite of that, Toronto fans have always known we have a great city with unbelievable culture. We believed Toronto was a world-class metropolis before the world came to know it as one.

Amir embraced the culture of the city. He attended Caribana and Nuit Blanche. He even hosted an event every year called “Roll with Amir”, where he would bring 100 fans to a Raptors game and provide them all with dinner on his own dime.

Toronto Raptors fans noticed. We saw an American player fall in love with our city for the first time. We saw someone chose to stay in Toronto over the summer when they could’ve gone back home.

His presence allowed Raptors fans to feel more confident in their city and in their identity. He was featured prominently in the Raptors first “We the North” campaign. He was a part of the “Young Gunz” crew with Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan who were meant to lead the Raptors in the wake of losing Chris Bosh.

He even helped fans redeem the #15 jersey that Vince Carter wore before rejecting us.

Being a fan favorite is about embodying the spirit of fans on and off the court. The toughest part about rooting for a team is often the lack of agency you have in the outcome. You can have rituals and routines and superstitions that can all be for naught if the players representing you don’t give it everything they have on the court.

Amir did this and then some. He played in a way that showed you he cared about fans. He gave it his all every night, even at times when the Raptors were far out of playoff considerations. He made you feel like he cared like you were out there on the court in his jersey with him. He played, spoke, and acted like how we imagined a Raptor should.

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And in a time and place where all Raptors fans wanted was to feel like they had been chosen, Amir Johnson chose us, and we will never forget it.