The Toronto Raptors are fresh into the 2020/2021 NBA season. The revised schedule and COVID restrictions have the team based in Tampa Bay for home games this time around.
Ever since Kawhi Leonard’s departure to Los Angeles and the Raptors elimination from last year’s Eastern Conference semi-finals, the team’s 2019 Championship swagger has been deflated, but not defeated.
In-house announcer and team co-chaplain Herbie Kuhn has been covering the Raptors since their inception. He still gets goosebumps recalling Kawhi’s iconic shot at the buzzer to lift the Raptors over the Philadelphia 76ers in game 7 of 2019.
“To watch the ball bounce and bounce and bounce and then finally fall through the mesh, it was like suspended animation,” Kuhn said. “The place was silent as could be for 20,000 people and then it erupted like a volcano.”
Following the Raptors win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, the last year-and-a-half has seen accelerated growth in the sport of basketball for Canadians, this has included watching the rise of budding Canadian stars in the NBA like Jamaal Murray of the Denver Nuggets and RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks.
“It [basketball] has gone from being what can best be described as a fringe sport. Not that basketball wasn’t well-known here in Canada, but in terms of mass popularity, in terms of grassroots, participation, it was certainly an outlier of a sport back in the early to mid-90s, even 96-97,” Kuhn explained. “And the Raptors organization – the Raptors existence – has contributed heavily, significantly to the growth of basketball, I don’t think there’s any words in the English language to describe the team’s contribution to Canada.”
Raptor fans continue to relive that 2019 championship moment, but lots of prayers are needed from more than just chaplain Herbie Kuhn if the team wants to enjoy a repeat celebration any time soon.
Photo: “The Raptors organization – the Raptors existence – has contributed heavily, significantly to the growth of basketball,” Herbie Kuhn said.