Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka
- The Raptors won their first-ever NBA title on Thursday night, toppling the Warriors' dynasty in the process.
- Toronto got the benefit of Golden State's many injuries, but make no mistake: The Raptors earned this championship.
As I sit here trying to make sense of what we just witnessed, there’s one sentiment that I can’t get over: The sequel is never better than the original. For every Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, there is a Speed 2: Cruise Control to negate it.
After watching the final seconds of the 2016 NBA Finals tick away from the corner of 4th and Euclid in downtown Cleveland, I swore to myself that I would never let recency bias conquer the euphoria I experienced first-hand that very night. But I didn’t need to be in Toronto to deliver this hypothesis to you now: This is one of, if not the most memorable championships in league history.
If any team was ever “cursed,” it sure felt like it was the Raptors — from the Vince Carter series-winning missed shot in 2001 and then rubbing elimination back in their faces years later, to Kobe’s 81-point massacre, to McGrady leaving for Orlando, to Bargnani, to Chris Bosh bouncing for South Beach, to having the city renamed LeBronto.
For this franchise to not only defeat its playoff demons, but end a dynasty in the same season is simply an unfathomable feat after what it has been through all of these years.
Let’s get this straight right now: There is no asterisk next to their accomplishment. Don’t you dare think about taking anything away from what the Raptors just did. Every Finals ever played has guys who are banged up, facing adversity, and circumstances that put them at a disadvantage.
The best teams always win in the NBA. The league’s business model designed to feature the biggest stars on the brightest stage, but the path from which they triumph is different every single time. THAT’S the mystique of the Finals.