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Mount Mutombo Climbs To The Mile-High Rafters

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Denver Nuggets Versus The Portland Trail Blazers

Orange eclipsed the sun as Dikembe Mutombo fell to the floor with his eyes to the sky and raised the Spalding into the Game 7 air above his head like Simba in the Lion King. Arms fully extended with the only thing shining brighter being his beaming 100-watt smile.

It’s perhaps the most enduring image in Rocky Mountain, Denver Nuggets history and the NBA’s hallowed video-tape reel for a team who from Alex English to Carmelo Anthony have had plenty in the air up there. As in 1994 Mutombo helped his eighth seeded Nuggets climb the mountain top of upset, knocking out Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton’s top ranking Seattle Supersonics in an epic playoff series of hardwood classic NBA history.

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But last night the Nuggets took it even higher than that, or even that iconic game ball as they raised Dikembe’s number 55 jersey to the clouds of the Pepsi Centre to forever coronate the legendary centres place in Denver Nuggets lore.

Mount Mutombo’s iconic 55 has already took flight to the top of the Hawks rafters in Atlanta thanks to a Phillips Arena ceremony last year, but now the great who also had a rejuvanated ‘what’s his age again’ surging streak for the Rockets in Houston, backing up and mentoring the injury wall hitting Yao Ming has a twofer honour. And you best believe his jersey will wave proudly like a flag even in that thin Colorado air.

And the Georgetown great carries this like the ambassador of this global game did with his soulful representation of his native Congo in the borderless basketball league of the NBA. Walking tall with heart like he did next to fellow golden era 90’s, college court contemporaries Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing.

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But nothing stood as tall as his moment last night.

The mammoth man who aswell as tenures in New York and Jersey also partnered with Allen Iverson in their Everest like challenge to get over the Goliath Shaq and Kobe, Hollywood Hill Lakers heart belongs here in Denver. The team A.I. left Philly for. The Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenneth Faried team of the future that paid tribute to Deke by rocking the ‘Rainbow Skyline’, Atari 80’s Tron looking, Mitchell and Ness throwback. One that Deke last brought out for NBA Africa as he and fellow big-man great Hakeem Olaujawon took to the court in a halftime surprise for the exhibition game. Arguably one of the most cult classic popular and iconic old-school jerseys in NBA apparel closet history.

Sure in-game the Nuggets may have lost 115-113 to Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers as number zero wrapped it all up with an incredible line of 37 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists that was all she wrote. But last night was about the Hall of Famer Denver drafted with the 4th pick in the ’91 draft. A true golden Nugget mined and found that went on to finger-wag his way to 3,289 blocks in his career as one of the greatest defensive players of all-time.

“I want to thank the fans of Denver for making me feel so welcome” the man himself said as everyone in attendance was upstanding for his ovation.

And this time as number 55’s finger pointed to his banner moment as his jersey took its rooftop home, for once it wasn’t wagging.

Only in this house.

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Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park

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Welcome To The Toronto Raptors' Jurassic Park
They The North...

“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”

Fans find a way.

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An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.

Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.

And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.

Welcome to Jurassic World.

With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the teams spiritual sixth man, spark plug. As electric as the paddock like perimeter fence surrounding them feels with this buzz over basketball (and national sport hockey come Leaf picking season), this crowd can’t be contained.

Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.

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Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?

I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic though, like it was all the basketball God’s plan.

Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.

This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.

And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.

But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.

Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.

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A tale of two magnificent game sevens

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A Tale Of Two Magnificent Game Sevens
The Seventh Seal...

As the Klaw was falling out of bounds as the buzzer blared and blazed red, the Spalding hit the rim and bounced back up. Kawhi Leonard, crouched at the baseline like Tiger Woods mastering Augusta, with his M.J. clutch tongue out and that thousand yard stare for a picture that was about to say that many words just watched. The ball hit the rim again as super sub Jordan Lloyd in street clothes with his arm around Kawhi excitedly watched in anticipation at all this air time that seemed to last longer than Winters in The Six. It looked like Summer in this city would drop before this simmering ball. It hit the rim again. To Leonard’s left Philly Sixer, Joel Embiid, almost smiling watched all this process with Game 7 and the Eastern Conference semi-finalists and who will play the Bucks in the final on the line like this ball in the seconds after time expired. It hit the rim again.

And again and again…

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…and then it dropped.

Sunday was such a fun day for sports fans. In the same 24 hours where the Premiership came down to the last game as the valiant reds of Liverpool lost the race to the champion Manchester City by two points (sound familiar?) in the afternoon, the NBA had one hell of a double header to close out God’s day which is usually a lazy one with a blessed gift from the hoop heavens.

Two game sevens in one night? This must be fantasy Basketball.

But it all came down to this.

First up the Pepsi Center in Nevada cracked open the last game between the two wild cards come good of the host Denver Nuggets looking to stone-cut their way to success and the visiting Portland looking to blaze a trail out of Rip City, following their first round downpour from way downtown against the OKC Thunder. But in the first half it looked like the Dame Time watch of Lillard had stopped as this team down by as many as 17 looked as cold as that teenage age. It looked like The Joker Jokic with 29 and 13 and his golden Nuggets held all the cards.

That was until the second half turned into C.J. time.

That’s when the other half of the best backcourt in the league (sorry Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. Get well soon John Wall. Show us what you still got next season) came alive in the crunch time like snap, crackle and pop. CJ McCollum definitely finished his breakfast on Sunday morning as he had an extra bowl this afternoon and finished with 37 points. Stopping on a dime and turning into a mid-range killer as his previously burnt our Blazers got that fire back and a 100-96 close victory in a to the wire and free throw line conclusion like chess tense. All checked for their first trip to the Wild West finals since the year 2000. The time Bonzi and the boys met Shaq and Kobe and that infamous, iconic alley-oop with arms up and mouths open.

But this time they will meet another dynasty champion…the Golden State Warriors.

Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green and Steph Curry with the shot. One more before the Silicon Valley of San Francisco.

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“Kick them off he court again boy”!

But that wasn’t the only thriller this night as we in the north were treated to more hardwood history making playoff views just north of six. If you were a betting man you couldn’t call it between these two games and teams. That’s why we have seven games. Or as the Nuggets coach Michael Malone screaming and staring in the eyes of elimination and his players said it best during his last timeout, “there’s no Game 8”! Whatever the outcome of this one was going to take all the Oxygen out the ScotiaBank former Air Canada Center.

In the end after two tales of epic four quarters there was no time for overtimes. As this 92-90 game came down to the closing clutch and two free agents to be who didn’t know whether they would be playing on Wednesday in Milwaukee, or fishing back home. Let alone what jerseys they’d be wearing next season, come Summer. Jimmy Butler thought he had it with a hard fought lay-up as did a jumping and clapping Embiid in premature celebration. But then the usual calm and composed assassin of Kawhi Leonard with 41 looked to claw away at all that, as he emphatically ran to the corner of downtown like your first night out of youth and launched what would have been a Hail Mary prayer if you didn’t believe just how brilliant this guy is. Craning the gooseneck and then watched as another Toronto Star took that renaissance painting iconic photo.

And judging from the usual calm and composed Kawhi’s screaming reaction as what looked like the whole of Toronto hug mobbed him you can guess the outcome with an electric Jurassic Park as wild as real raptors alive outside that no perimeter fence could contain. Forget the next few months and whether he will trade this cold front and touch of frost for a sunny day in L.A., right now Leonard has a real chance of making hoops history as Canada could well become the first franchise outside of the United States to become National Basketball Association champions. And those ready for that laughing GIF in response that was a lifetime ago. Look at his face last night. Whose laughing now? They said he’d never leave San Antonio and looked what happened there. The opposite could here.

But with both games done and dusted, taking it to the brackets the most impressive thing on both fronts yesterday was the professionalism. Whether it be the respect and heart emoji exchange between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers on Twitter. Or Marc Gasol consoling and embracing an emotional and tearful Joel Embiid (absolutely heartbreaking and healing to watch) postgame in Toronto and undoubtedly telling him how much of a warrior he is. In a time where fans troll, reduce and erase superstars and teams into memes as soon as they are eliminated (James Harden? The MVP? Really? Like we could do better against the Dubs…or anyone) it’s real and refreshing.

And that is why we play…and watch.

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