Contributor: Khristian Padua
Not just any normal Sunday but the Sunday before the highly anticipated Raptors 2014/2015 season starts. Hundreds of passionate fans showed up an hour before the doors opened including my self to catch a glimpse of the event which is about to occur . This act of eagerness plus everyone wearing Red , Black , or White Raptors gear shows how hungry are amazing city of Toronto is for a winner ! Not only were the beautiful people of Toronto who came in all ages and ethnicities covered in Raptors attire but all around the Air Canada Center , buildings & walls were filled of Raptors murals & advertisements . Toronto as a city has morphed into a dynamic, excited & proud culture ready to embrace that next level of success after that brilliant year in which our Raptors broke many records .
My mentor and friend Vernon Chang & I started the evening by lining up to meet the Raptors Brazilian rookie Bruno Caboclo. Bruno is a very tall but sweet guy . As I shook his hand he had a smile that showcased that he was very excited but at the same time a little bit overwhelmed with all the attention. Which is totally understandable for a 19 year old whose life took an unexpected positive change being a draft pic to the NBA after being fairly new to the game of Basketball. As he adapts I believe he will be a steal for the organization. When it was Vernon’s turn Bruno shook his hand and happily told Vern ‘ Hey I like your style ! ‘ even though his English is broken.This is quite the compliment to Vernon’s style and overall persona , we were both very happy that Bruno had such a nice first impression .
Before we headed into the presentation we were offered our free food and drinks as a welcome gift to the organizations supportive and passionate season ticket holders such as Vernon. Our plates came with a burrito , mixed rice , poutine , banana bread and a chilled beer to wash it all down . After settling in our seats of the Air Canada Center out came Toronto radio hosts Tim & Sid mic’d up on the nice set up of a mega screen big screen TV , a leather couch & chairs. They started by introducing and thanking the fans for coming out while doing hilarious skits praising Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. Very funny start to the presentation . Next came serious business as Masai Ujiri gave his expectations to the upcoming season and his thoughts on the overall situation of Toronto and the amount of success we achieved last season . One thing he consistently pointed out in his rants was that our fan base was bar none the best fan base in the NBA which i can personally agree & say I am proud of being apart of . Our strong fan base is going to be the 16th man game in game out for the Raptors. After Tim and Sid picked apart Masai’s brain asking analytic and dynamic questions for the crowd the fans were given an opportunity to ask the Boss-man Masai questions about the upcoming season.
Next came out former Raptors Mugsy Bogues who talked about his experience playing for the organization and his love for the city . One thing that stood out in his time given in the presentation was his desire to back up Vince Carter’s jersey potentially being raised into the rafters, the crowd was a mix of positive and negative feedback. Personally speaking I agree with Mugsy and I believe that Vince Carter put Toronto on the map and he deserves the credit where it’s due.
Grand finale of this presentation showcased our beloved stars of the Toronto Raptors. Our captain Demar Derozan , our leader on the floor and general Kyle Lowry & our promising third year big man Jonas Valanciunas. Within this segment including interview style questions with a few laughs in between as all their personalities are different but all click together. They emphasized there thankfulness for the Raptors outstanding support and fan-base and included their personal thoughts on last season and what they expect out of themselves this upcoming season.
All in all the event was an amazing experience and made me this much eager for the season to start. This year is our year and I believe with the additions of certain players are bench is deep enough to take our team to the next level and progress to a long play-off run with potential to compete with any team within the N.B.A night in and night out. One thing that stands us out compared to other teams is our core returning and everyone understanding their roles and contributing to one goal , winning. With the support of a city, country and overall culture change as Kyle Lowry said throughout the presentation ” We fight together as brothers, we go to war together ” we are ready , we the north !