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A strange, new feeling: On the end of a winning season (finally)

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The 2019 NBA season is over, but for Raptors fans, it ended with something new: The accomplishment of the ultimate goal. How does it feel?

NBA Finals 2019: On the end of a title-winning season for the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

For about 30 hours, I was in a haze. From the moment the Raptors won the NBA title late on Thursday night, up until 3:00 a.m. watching the postgame and reading the gamers, and then Friday, watching the game again, writing my recap, consuming all video highlights packages. Then attempting, vainly, to do some work at my day job. And finally, fitfully, falling asleep early on Friday night. I don’t think my mind was working properly until I woke up, finally rested, on Saturday morning.

And that’s when it finally hit me, that the NBA season was over. It had ended, inevitably, as it does every season. That’s nothing new. But I felt different. The Raptors were the champions, obviously, which isn’t an outcome we’ve ever seen before. And because I’m so emotionally tied up in this team, as I have been for 24 seasons, I was feeling something new I’d never felt following the end of a season. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I did, eventually:

Satisfaction.

Every Raptors season before had ended in some sort of failure, either by being an objectively awful season (16 wins!) or following a bad trade (Vince Carter) or failed signing (Hedo Turkoglu) or draft bust (too many to name) or playoff failure (way, way too many to name). The Raptors never accomplished anything of substance, not really; even the “moral victories” — the first .500 season, the first playoff series, Game 7 against Brooklyn — left you wanting more.

But now there’s nothing more to want. It’s done. The goals are all accomplished, the journey complete. The Raptors are NBA Champions, they dethroned the Warriors, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy belongs to Toronto.

It’s so immensely satisfying, to finally, after 24 years, come to the end of a season and have no what-ifs or if-onlys. There’s no letdown, no clinging to hope that next season will be different. No “I can’t believe it’s over” moment. There’s no disappointment or craving for more, there’s no praying for a good lottery turnout or that a free agent will meet with the team or that they’ll pull off a trade that will finally, finally change things and give the Raptors a real chance.

The trade happened. The Toronto Raptors got their chance — and made the most of it.

We got to see all the moves Masai Ujiri made over six years coalesce into a championship team. We got to see our young studs, drafted so late (or not at all) show up on the biggest stage. We got to see our veterans fulfill their ultimate goal. We got to see Kawhi Leonard, an absolute superstar, play at the highest possible level, hit the most incredible shot, and win Finals MVP.

And we got to see Kyle Lowry, NBA Champion, hoist that Larry OB.

There’ll be another season, soon enough, and the offseason is obviously in full swing already. And I’ll get invested, because I always do, because I love basketball and the NBA and the Raptors, regardless of who’s on the roster. Of course I want to see what happens with Leonard’s free agency and see how the team shapes up for next season, and what everyone else in the East does, and where Kevin Durant goes and so on.

But for now? I’m floating above all that. Our team accomplished the goal — they really did it — and I am completely and utterly content. It’s a hell of a feeling.