clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Shot Revisited: Toronto remembers the long, agonizing journey of Game 7

On the one-year anniversary of Kawhi Leonard’s defining moment in Toronto, remember that pivotal moment and the hectic events in my life that preceded it.

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Being a diehard Raptors fan, stranded in New York City on the day of the biggest game in franchise history was certainly less than ideal. Add in a torrential downpour and a complete uncertainty of where, or if, I’d be able to watch the game live, and you have the perfect storm of anxiety-inducing conditions. With a return flight booked for Sunday night, I showed up at the airport with a panic attack and several backup plans, but no concrete idea of how this night would unfold.

Let’s take a step back.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate my cousin on his Bar Mitzvah, which took place on May 11th, 2019. If you recall, that’s the day before the Raptors took on the Philadelphia 76ers for the final game of a truly tumultuous series.

Seeing as I knew in advance that I was going to be in New York that weekend, I had prayed the Raptors would take care of business in Game 6 on Thursday, so the series would be over before I flew to Manhattan; but, no dice. The Raptors couldn’t hit a shot to save their lives, and so on Friday, I journeyed across the border plagued by a crippling fear over whether Game 7 would conflict with my flight home. (How quaint these concerns seem now a year later.)

My worst fears were confirmed midway through the weekend when I found out that, indeed, the last game of the series would take place at 7pm that Sunday night, about one hour after my flight was scheduled to take off. Yet, there was still a silver lining — flights from New York to Toronto are pretty short, and so I hoped I’d at least get to watch the second half upon my return home.

Of course, that would be too easy. On Sunday morning, I awoke to heavy sheets of rain pummelling my hotel window. The rain was so severe, in fact, that it felt like a harbinger of doom straight from the Basketball Gods themselves. Right then, I received an email I had been dreading: my flight home was delayed until 7pm.

At this point, I had to decide on whether I would join my family on their flight home or attempt to reschedule my flight. I spoke with the Air Canada ticketing agency who mentioned there were no red-eye flights out of LaGuardia Airport, but there was one early the next morning. So, I hesitantly, but desperately, emailed my boss and informed him that I may need to miss work the next day to stay in New York overnight to watch the Raptors game — yes, I’m aware of how ridiculous that sounds — and that I’d keep him updated.

Meanwhile, I spent the better part of the day downloading various VPN apps for my phone and testing them out in the unlikely scenario that I’d need to watch the game over Wi-Fi on my flight home, which I was prepared to buy for an extra fee, even though I assumed the signal wouldn’t be strong enough to live-stream anyway.

To make matters worse, I spent the whole day anxiously repeating my contingency plans aloud, seeking some sort of reassurance, but instead inciting massive bouts of irritation from the rest of my family. We Litmans are a neurotic bunch, as you may be able to tell.

Eventually I decided that, worst-case scenario, I could try to shut my phone off, not speak with anyone, and watch the game in full on NBA League Pass after I arrived home that night. But, as someone who can’t stand the idea of not being in the loop when it comes to Raptors-related happenings, this option felt like an absolute nightmare. Unfortunately, there were no other realistic options. By the time my family arrived at the airport, I had succumbed to the idea that there was no way I’d be able to watch the game live, and I’d be (potentially) missing out on history.

But then, just as my psyche hit rock bottom, I received news that felt like divine intervention: my flight had been delayed by an additional hour and a half. After sighing many sighs of relief, I found a bar with a television situated at our gate. Yes, I was relieved my flight was delayed. As I sat down to watch the game, nervously unaware of when exactly I’d have to board, I struck up a conversation with the only other person at the bar: a man from Philadelphia. We exchanged friendly jabs as the first half of the game unfolded, neither of us feeling confident in the slightest. It felt good to commiserate with another basketball fan, even if he was rooting for the other team.

Before I knew it, the second half of the game had started and I still hadn’t been called to board. This would become a common theme, as I continuously prayed that I’d be able to finish watching the game. As the clock ticked down to the final play of regulation, the two teams remained neck and neck.

Then, suddenly, during the commercial break before the final play, I heard a loud burst of commotion coming from the other side of the gate. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my feed of the game was on a 30-second delay, and I was about to find out what the commotion was all about.

The Raptors inbounded the ball, and four bounces on the rim later I burst into tears, sprinting around the terminal, screaming and jumping on chairs. At that moment, all my anxiety melted away, and — with perfect timing — we were finally called to board the plane.

I never thought a delayed flight could bring so much joy.