Edmonton Raptors fans captivated by NBA Finals

“The 6ix” is not the only city captivated by the Toronto Raptors’ playoff run.

Edmonton fans of the team making its push toward the NBA championship are still pinching themselves.

“Raptors fever is in full effect for sure at our school, if not in the whole city of Edmonton,” said Edmonton teacher Andrew Parker in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Edmonton AM on Thursday.

Raptors jerseys with names like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRosen are not a rare sight at his school, but Kawhi Leonard, one of the most electifying players in the NBA, is the real game-changer, said basketball journalist Eric Fawcett, in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Wednesday.

For Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on Thursday night, the Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors.

It’s being been billed by some as a David-versus-Goliath matchup, as this is Toronto’s first-ever appearance in the finals, while this is the fifth-straight season for the Warriors to be in this position.

No ‘scrappy underdog’

But this Canadian team, is no “scrappy underdog,” said Fawcett.  

“The Raptors have a really talented group. They’ve got Kawhi Leonard who’s playing probably better than anyone right now in the playoffs, so it’s a different fan experience, especially being a Raptors fan,” said Fawcett.

“To see them just kind of roll over some really good basketball teams already … people think they’ve got a chance against the mighty Warriors,” he said.

With players like Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin, Serge Ibaka from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and even general manager Masai Ujiri, who is of Nigerian descent, the multiculturalism of the team is also resonating with Edmontonians.

“This is huge and I’m glad that we get representation and a little bit of diversity here in the NBA,” said Parker.

For the community at his school, especially the many students who are immigrants in single-parent households, taking part in cheering the Raptors, especially with the team’s ‘We The North’ campaign, has deeper meaning.

“Some of their countrymen have never got a chance to get to the NBA Finals and they’re doing it,” said Parker. “To share that with the Toronto Raptors, it’s big for them.

“It’s a way for them to take ownership and to love the game and to also share it with Toronto even though we’re … miles away.”

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