If you’re fortunate enough to live in the city of Toronto or count yourself as one of its many dedicated sports fans, then you’re well aware of the importance that’s been placed upon this current Toronto Raptors squad, and the strong possibility that they’re on the verge of their first playoff appearance since 2008.
More than just the city’s best shot at postseason relevance, the Raptors’ unlikely turnaround has been a welcome surprise to a fanbase that’s become accustomed to a best-case scenario that has rarely surpassed mediocrity.
The frustration that’s been building throughout the city goes well beyond the Raptors however, and has been fuelled by the equally disappointing campaigns strung together in recent years by both the Toronto Blue Jays and the NHL‘s Toronto Maple Leafs.
For Raptor fans who are wise to limit their own personal expectations and therefore aren’t yet allowing themselves to dream of an NBA championship though, the success that the franchise has been experiencing this season represents a significant step in the right direction.
Having last made the postseason in 2008, the past few years have been marked by the departure of one of the most popular players in team history, failed attempts to build through the draft or add a big-name free agent, and five straight losing seasons.
Until DeMar DeRozan‘s recent progression into one of the league’s most consistent young scorers and subsequent promotion to NBA All-Star, many fans throughout professional basketball viewed the Raptors as little more than the team that Vince Carter played for when he won the slam-dunk contest.
But things have clearly changed in Raptorland, and it’s no coincidence that the improvements have occurred on the watch of GM Masai Ujiri, who joined Toronto after winning NBA Executive Of The Year with the Denver Nuggets in 2013.
In his first stint with Toronto, Ujiri acted as the Raptors’ Director of Global Scouting before being promoted to the position of assistant GM, and the change in both attitude and atmosphere around the franchise has steadily improved since his return.
While the standards for the Raptors, Blue Jays and Maple Leafs are each very different, all sports fans in Toronto ever wanted was something to believe in. And as dramatic as that sounds, what Canada’s lone NBA franchise has achieved this season only begins on the hardwood.
This isn’t about a city feeling shortchanged after years of unfulfilled expectations. Rather, it’s about a city that’s patiently endured far too many years of complacency, and an end to the Raptors’ playoff drought would finally reward some of the most deserving fanbases in all of pro sports.