This has been a very difficult week and every part of my brain is telling me it shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be feeling the despair I’m feeling over the loss of a man who I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have tears in my eyes every time I see a basketball highlight on Twitter or another person who personally knew Kobe recount memories they shared. I should be fine.
But I’m not. I’m also not alone.
You too have probably been wondering how it’s possible to feel the way you’re feeling with each growing day that Kobe Bryant isn’t with us. You’re probably wondering when it will all feel okay — normal again. You might need the distraction of more basketball news or trivium or highlights. You might need complete and total radio silence from the medium that reminds you how much of a hole that Kobe left when he left us.
What I think we all could use is a dose of gratitude for the living mixed in with a sprinkling of levity and hell, maybe even a dash of sarcasm and a well aimed dig. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer just that with a focused lens on this Raptors roster in a special edition of the Toronto Temperature.
Kyle Lowry, A Royal Pain
There is an overflowing abundance of things to be grateful for about Kyle Lowry. He’s long been the greatest Raptor of all time, he does every little thing you could possibly ask for of a player on the court and he seems to be a genuinely good person. I’m most grateful for the giant pain in the ass that he is for opposing players and referees. Never change, Kyle.
Pascal Siakam, Unlimited Potential
Have you ever had a week at work where you just kind of coasted, but you’re so good at your job that your colleagues all congratulated you on how great of a job you’d done? I’m grateful for Pascal’s ability to reach new levels of greatness seemingly every day.
NBA: Pascal Siakam is Player of the Week— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) January 27, 2020
Raptors Twitter: “He was alright, I guess.”
Me: If Siakam can win Player of the Week during a stretch where he was fine for most, then sign me up for what’s next.
Marc Gasol, Fundamentally Sound
Through all of the injuries that the Raptors sustained in the early part of the season, Gasol’s impact was felt the most. While the defense did a helluva job in his absence, Marc’s innate ability to be in the exact right place, in the exact right time and tell his teammates exactly where they needed to be before they needed to be there was sorely missed. I’m grateful for Gasol’s IQ and his ability to consistently be sound in his fundamentals.
OG Anunoby, Even Keel
Look, I love OG as a player just as much as the next super fan in the OG Hive, but this guy’s humour is next level. I’m grateful that 22 other teams were dumb and didn’t take him before the Raptors did at 23 in the 2017 draft.
damn did serge make OG wear a shirt with a graphic of bron’s game winner on his avec classe fashion show pic.twitter.com/eIBTJ6EZyY— alex (@steven_lebron) January 11, 2020
Fred VanVleet, Bet On Your Kids
As much as Fred likes to downplay the birth of his child as the catalyst for his miraculous turnaround from one of the worst playoff performances against the Philadelphia 76ers to his supernova status against the Bucks, Warriors and every other team since that series, I for one, do not. I am grateful for VanVleet’s children and for Fred allowing Norm to hold his child, thus unlocking Powell’s newfound powers as a consistent, flame-throwing three point shooter.
Norman Powell, What a Ride
If you’ve been reading these columns or follow me on Twitter, you know how I feel about Norm Powell. His lack of consistency was maddening, but I consistently enjoyed talking about him and his game. Powell has now reached a level that we all hope he can maintain and you know what, I’m grateful to have been along for the ride.
Serge Ibaka, Artist
Much like OG, there is a plenty to be grateful for when it comes to Serge Ibaka’s game. Chief among those reasons is that Ibaka lead the league for the entire decade of the 2010’s in blocks by a very comfortable margin.
Serge Ibaka led the #NBA this decade in Blocks (1,551). He finishes ahead of DeAndre Jordan (1,258) & Anthony Davis (1,201). @sergeibaka #NBA #WeTheNorth #RTZ #LakeShow #WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/q2r21a5hFf— 206 Sports (@206Sports1) January 5, 2020
But, like, have you seen this guy? I’m most grateful for Serge’s fashion sense by a high-class country mile.
Quick Hitters, The Rest
The major-minute-Raptors have all been covered, so let’s give some shine to the guys who ensure that the Raptors machine keeps ticking while the players above catch their breath.
I am grateful for Terence Davis being the greatest rookie of all time.
I am grateful for Chris Boucher’s lankiness and mostly excellent hair choices.
I am grateful for Matt Thomas having never missed a three point shot in his life.
I am grateful for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s inability to quit on a play.
I am grateful for Patrick McCaw for never losing a championship in his life.
I am grateful for Malcolm Miller’s ability to still be on this roster.
I am grateful for Oshae Brissett being RHJ’s doppelganger but with a jump shot.
I am grateful for Dewan Hernandez getting the opportunity to be another gem for Masai.
I am grateful for Stanley Johnson’s eye-wear.
With all of that, I encourage you to be grateful for all of these great players who fill our lives with countless hours of laughter, frustration and pure joy. Yes, you can still be cynical about them, but in those moments, be appreciative of them as well — you just never know when they might be gone.