Since being drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors, Scottie Barnes might be batting 1.000. The numbers in Summer League were great. The physical tools and videos of his distractive defensive ability have Raptors fans wondering how opposing teams are ever going to score in the triple digits.
He’s proven that his winning qualities go beyond his play on the court. Combining the starry-eyed innocence of an NBA rookie with the thunderous intensity of a Kevin Garnett, the fire Barnes plays the game with and his charisma on and off the court has won the hearts of many a Torontonian.
And now, with this new Players’ Tribune article, Barnes has fully cemented himself with the lifeblood of the city, and the country.
In it, he walks us through his experiences on draft night, his excitement to finally live out his basketball dream, and his appreciation for the warm welcome he’s received from the Raptors’ players, staff, and fans.
It’s a nice article. Casually written, positive, and warm, but at a first glance, one might wonder what the big deal is.
Well, here’s why.
Scottie Barnes is endearing himself to the Raptors’ fanbase.
Usually, when NBA players write this “ode to a city” type piece, they do it because they’re leaving. They’re traded or sign somewhere else, but they want to express their gratitude for the time they spent in their previous NBA market.
“I love this city, amazing fans, I’ll always cherish my time here. etc. etc.”
Most fans and media members (myself included) thought that the Raptors were a shoo-in to take Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs with their lottery pick. So right off the bat, Barnes was coming in with something to prove.
Barnes is writing this of his own volition, not as a goodbye, but as a hello. He’s making promises, not waving goodbye. He’s putting himself out there in a way that not many players do, let alone rookies.
The last two rookies who wrote similar pieces to Barnes’ are Cassius Stanley (who was grateful to be drafted at all) and R.J. Barrett (who’s loved by New Yorkers now, but at the time was looked at as a consolation prize for not getting Zion Williamson).
The words in Barnes’ article are touching, but the fact that he wrote anything at all speaks just as loudly. He’s letting his city knows he cares.
This empathy goes beyond the here and now…
Whether he realizes it or not, Barnes’ article has an especially strong effect on the Raptors fanbase.
When it comes to top-tier talent, Raptors fans have some serious trust issues. Fans’ hearts have been broken too many times. Barnes, fresh off hitting the streets with his teammates, could remedy that.
Whether it’s Damon Stoudamire declining his rookie extension, Tracy McGrady jumping a young contending team to play in the United States, Vince Carter complaining his way to New Jersey, Chris Bosh creating the big three in Miami, or Kawhi Leonard giving us a ring and then leaving, we’ve been burned before.
When it comes to these big fish, Toronto sports fans need that extra reassurance. We need our stars to tell us we’re good enough for them, and now that Barnes has, we’ll love him all the more.
He’s been putting some pretty smooth moves on us Raptors fans. Of course, none of this will hold up unless he can deliver on the court, but for now, all we can say is how happy we’ve been with Scottie Barnes thus far.