The streets of the 6ix were flooded Monday to celebrate the Toronto Raptors and the NBA championship over 20 years in the making. Even in the early hours of We the North Day, as June 17 was so named by Mayor John Tory, while people were filing in to work, there was already an electricity in the air—and that was nearly seven hours before the Raptors themselves would arrive at Nathan Phillips Square for the kind of homecoming reserved for royalty.
After catching glimpses of their favourite players make their way through the downtown core as part of the celebratory parade, at a snail’s pace thanks to millions of onlookers and the most intense traffic jams you could possible imagine, fans were elated when the cavalry finally arrived, champagne-soaked and smiling from ear-to-ear.
The Prime Minister himself was on-hand as were other notable politicians including John Tory and Ontario premier Doug Ford but it was when the team members themselves hit the stage that the cheers became deafening. Kyle Lowry showed up with his adorable kids, Karter, 7, and Kameron, 3, in tow and the King of the North, the man of few words but owner of an iconic laugh, Kawhi Leonard, was given the key to the city.
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No surprise, the team’s hype man and self-generating meme machine Drake was on-hand for the celebrations, guzzling a beer that was thrown to him without batting an eye and taking a moment to speak with etalk when the parade reached its final destination to ruminate on why he loves Toronto so darn much.
“Just an incredible city, man. They always over-deliver when it comes to love,” he told Tyrone Edwards. “I signed something for somebody and they were so far behind the float, and I threw it back in the crowd and somebody else caught it and they walked it back to the person! And that just sums it up,” said Drake. “Greatest city in the world.”
When the Raptors global ambassador hit the stage, he preached a similar message of love and instructed people in the audience to turn to each other and hug a fellow fan while acknowledging the champions who brought it home.
“You deserve this.”