Toronto Raptors: Top six moments from the successful 2010s

Championship Banner - Toronto Raptors(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Championship Banner - Toronto Raptors(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

1) Acquiring Kawhi Leonard and winning the 2019 NBA Championship

If you said 10 years ago that the Toronto Raptors would be NBA Champions, nobody would believe you. Someone might have thrown their free slice of pizza at you. It just didn’t seem possible.

After years of development and a little stagnation, the impossible became possible when the team acquired a disgruntled Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors finally had the missing superstar that they needed to truly contend for an NBA championship.

Sure they had to give up a loyal, fan favourite in DeMar DeRozan for only one year of a player coming off a mysterious injury. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Delicately managing Leonard’s minutes with ‘load management’ throughout the regular season, the team made a key trade for Marc Gasoil at the deadline before entering the playoffs where the fun truly began.

What happened next, no one could script or predict.

Having experienced so much heartbreak in years past, it was only natural for Raptors’ fans to be nervous. That old dread resurfaced after a tight loss to the lower-seeded Orlando Magic in Game 1. Déjà vu or so it seemed. The Raptors pulled themselves together and steamrolled the next 4 games behind the dominant performances of Kawhi Leonard.

Onto the second round where they faced off against the giant Philadelphia 76ers. After a back-and-forth series, it all came down to a decisive Game 7. With the game tied at 90 with 4.2 seconds remaining, Leonard received the ball, dribbled around the perimeter and shot it from the baseline. The shot bounced four times on the rim before going in to give the Raptors the series win and the most memorable individual moment in franchise history.

Against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors found themselves in dire straits, losing the first two games of the series. A change in strategy by Nick Nurse, putting Kawhi Leonard on Giannis Antetokounmpo neutralized a major advantage and changed the tide. Behind the torrid stroke of new papa, Fred VanVleet, the Raptors would go on to win the next four games and make history by advancing to their first NBA Finals.

Once there, the Raptors came prepared, winning three out of the first four games against the undermanned Golden State Warriors. The return of Kevin Durant in Game 5 spelled trouble for our fearless heroes, but his Achilles gave way. Somehow, the Raptors still managed to lose that game but led by an inspired performance from Kyle Lowry, the team won Game 6 to clinch their first-ever NBA title.

Euphoria ensued. People filled the streets for a massive championship parade. Then Leonard left in free agency despite all the wooing. Things felt a bit dour. A massive ring ceremony on opening night lifted fans’ spirits, before receiving closure when Leonard returned in mid-December as an opponent, still the King of the North.

Next Decade

The Toronto Raptors are a true success story. Patiently building through the draft before capitalizing on a golden opportunity, they found a way to change their franchise misfortunes. From a team that didn’t really win, lost in the most dramatic ways possible and couldn’t hold on to its best players, they now sit on the NBA summit as defending champions.

Kyle Lowry is taking his game to another level. dark. Next

What will the next 10 years bring? Who knows. One thing is for sure, it’s never been a better time to be a Raptors fan.