Yes, the Raptors parade was on Monday and it is now Thursday, which makes this column extremely late and not of significant note — especially not with the NBA Draft tonight, and the free agency period beginning in ten days. It’s been difficult to shake the sheer pace of events in Toronto and with the Raptors. (And I feel like I only just recovered myself.) We got to celebrate a title a week ago today, and yet not even three days later head coach Nick Nurse was being asked about the Anthony Davis-Lakers trade. That’s life in the dang fast lane, as they say.
So let’s rewind. Just ten hours ago, at some point early this morning in the Eastern Time Zone, Marc Gasol tweeted out his thoughts and feelings on the Raptors championship parade.
This is what it looked like in my mind... thank you Toronto for making me feel like a rockstar for a day! ♂️ pic.twitter.com/PGMJcbW7dO— Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) June 20, 2019
This, of course, is a very funny joke, one that references Gasol’s performance on Monday and his, uh, overall enjoyment of the festivities. His emergence as a party man also got me thinking about which Raptors appeared to enjoy the parade the most.
As an event, there were a few things that went haywire during the day — the attendance crush delayed the buses for a couple hours, numerous people were definitely struggling with heat stroke (including me), and there was, sadly, a shooting incident in Nathan Phillips Square (though no deaths, thank goodness). Not to downplay those escalating and egregious negatives, but let’s instead remain optimistic and, as Kawhi Leonard opined from the stage, enjoy the moment.
In lieu of a ranking — because we’re done with competition for the summer — we’ll give each participant a letter grade. The higher the grade, the more they enjoyed the whole championship parade experience. (And for those keeping score, the non-Raptor grades are as follows: Ford, Doug — F; Trudeau, Justin — C; Tory, John — B-; Devlin, Matt — A+, Strizzy and Kat — C+; I can’t elaborate anymore on this, just know that these are the correct assessments.)
Now, onto your most visible championship Raptors:
Lowry has spent a chunk of his life in Toronto raging against an ocean of misfortune in his quest for an NBA title. He doesn’t drink, which surely affected his ability to really achieve the highest levels of in-the-moment enjoyment. But it also meant Lowry had no hangover on Tuesday, and was definitely not dehydrated to the extreme like some of his teammates. It’s classic Lowry that even during an absurd celebratory parade, he’s right on the ball. What a pro, what a leader, what a guy.
Also, was there a Raptor who posed more perfectly for more photos that showed off himself, the trophy, and the surrounding crowd than Lowry? I submit: no.
Enjoyment Grade: A
I’ll be honest, Danny Green was very close to having a really terrible summer thanks to his turnover near the end of Game 6. Obviously if the Raptors had lost that game, there was still a good chance they’d win in Game 7, which would have led to an even bigger party in this city, stretching out for the whole week. But still, my man Green knew he had messed up huge in that moment. “Oh man. I was probably the most stressed of anybody in the world,” he said a few days later. “I was on suicide watch. But yeah It was stressful for me.”
For the most part it feels like Green was, as always, chill during the parade. He’s been there before, and while he had a role to play in getting Toronto there, he didn’t do a ton in that Game 6 to celebrate. Still, we’ll give him something: Green definitely lived his best hair day in a while, and that’s more than enough.
Enjoyment Grade: B-
Siakam’s motor is legendary, which makes statements like the one below just another part of his whole ethos:
But this young man, the league’s soon-to-be Most Improved Player, and really the future of Toronto Raptors basketball (regardless of what happens with Kawhi), also tried to start a “Spicy P” chant when he hit the big stage. Rookie mistake!
Enjoyment Grade: C+
On Serge Ibaka’s current status, I’m reminded often of this long ago column from the Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly. The thesis of said piece was that Ibaka had been something of a humourless man for most of his time in Toronto. Was this due to the weird nuclear winter of having to live and interact in Oklahoma City, or was it because of the bizarre role he found himself in Orlando? It’s possible. Or maybe Serge had just never been given a chance to be himself.
As it turns out now, Ibaka may be the lynchpin to the Raptors’ entire mood. He’s the guy who can bring anyone and everyone on his show How Hungry Are You? to eat God knows what. He may very well be the true Kawhi whisperer. He is a true uniter. And while most of Ibaka’s best celebratory footage came before the parade (like this; and this), there was never any doubt that he would show up when it mattered most.
There’s Ibaka managing to tie a cooking metaphor into his parade speech. Maybe he truly is now an elder statesman, and a spokesperson for the Raptors going forward. Whatever happens with Ibaka, we’ll miss him one day. What a legend.
Enjoyment Grade: A-
Everything Kawhi has done after Game 6 has been at such a high level, it’s astounding how well-rounded his entire life is, to say nothing of his game. From the dancing to “Ole” to “What it do baby!” from the back of a car with Serge Ibaka, right on up to his perfect callback to his famous opening day laugh, Leonard is just on another plane of existence.
I mean, damn, look at the execution on this:
Unimpeachable. And this is after being stuck in Toronto traffic — under the Gardiner Expressway no less — for hours.
Enjoyment Grade: A+
Undrafted. G League rotation player. G League champion. NBA rotation player. Finals hero. Celebrated with Drake on the parade bus.
Drake celebrating with Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet pic.twitter.com/S1XjQGfVMY— ESPN (@espn) June 17, 2019
What a journey. (Though we do have to dock a few grades knowing that there’s no way Fred was able to really bring the true partying energy all the way out. He’s a new dad, and he instead brought something of a scolding energy to his speech — which in my opinion was pretty funny. VanVleet has got us in Toronto dead to rights.)
Enjoyment Grade: B+
There is a lot of footage out there of Gasol waving his arms off the roof of the bus, looking for all the world like a giant rubber octopus or one of those inflatable gas station men, and then also chugging an entire bottle of win, Andre the Giant-style. But below is really my favourite bit of footage:
Hilo con videos de Marc Gasol ayer durante la celebración. Auténtico MVP del parade.— Alejandro Gaitán (@alejandroggo) June 18, 2019
“I’m drunk man” pic.twitter.com/CY5qB2TnX1
There’s Gasol, sitting next to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and rambling on about how drunk he is. Truly next level stuff from a deserved champion.
Enjoyment Grade: A+
Enjoyment Grade: Understand the grind