In 2006 this English writer was having a last meal with his parents before embarking on what should have been a year to once in a lifetime trip to Toronto, Canada to find work and his new version of the American dream, but up north in the 6. And as the waiter brought us over sesame toast to whet our appetite my dad asked, where else in the world intrigued me. And I had one, resolute answer a week after watching my favourite film ‘Lost In Translation’ for the first time.
“Hopefully I’ll go there by 30,” I told them as a wide-eyed 21 year old, eager for adventure. Little did I know it wouldn’t be long before I was back from the T-Dot (much to my almost decade long regret, although I am still connected in a way to Canada. Hello!). And that I wouldn’t make it to Japan by 30, but instead see the place four times after then with my age standing at a Kareem jersey right now, about to be turned into a Shaq. Little did I know that my passion for writing, language and hoops (everything I’ve done has always been about basketball) would lead me to a teaching English dream in the Far East with a goal to get to Tokyo before the 2020 Olympics (Team USA and all that).
But guess who else is looking to Air Canada themselves to the land of the rising sun this fall?
The Raptors will play the Rockets this October in the same month the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets trade ice in their kingdoms veins in China’s Shanghai and Shenzhen. And with rumors having it that this year’s Wizards spell over the Knicks in Great Britain will be the last NBA London clash for awhile (or shall we say like the out on hold Carmelo to Lakers LeBron union, “paused”). It looks like Asia is the new hoops hotbed continent to be for more than just me this year. As as much as I love home and the Big Smoke, I may be leaving at the right time.
And it all comes circling around on court at the right time as Toronto, the Canadian and sole NBA franchise outside of the U.S. looks to expand their international appeal like trading for Spanish big man Marc Gasol at the deadline. Even if the smart move for the NBA would have appeared to be taking the team they picked up Pau’s (now stopping at the Bucks) brother from too. Not only did the Memphis Grizzlies used to exist outside of the States as Canucks in Vancouver (try finding a bear in Memphis. Let alone a Grizzly one. It’s all blue suede shoes Elvis to the relief of DiCaprio’s ‘Revenant’. You may find a teddy though). But the Grizz also play host to the first, biggest Japanese player in NBA global game history. As the seven foot rookie Yuta Watanabe has all the tools and pedigree to be the next big thing, not only in Japan, but the NBA as a world whole. Don’t believe us? Just Bruno Mars in ‘Uptown Funk’. He’s gonna give it to ya.
Someone swing a trade for this kid. Imagine the yen.
But with the Rockets taking off to Japan like a ‘Steamboy’ anime, the anticipation of a clash between two of the league’s top five players is too good to pass up like a Point Guard duel of underrated superstar Kyle Lowry and unanimous legend Chris Paul. Providing he’s still there after this Summer (and considering the amount of CA dollars he’s just dropped on Canadian Goose jackets it doesn’t look like he’s going to be joining King LeBron in L.A. with all that fur anytime soon), Kawhi Leonard will face off with the Beard of James Harden. The greatest offensive force this league has seen since the 100 points in a single game dip of Wilt Chamberlain, who will probably still be streaking 30 point games by then for most NBA players career-high dreams every single night.
And these two battling like kaijus in Japan for a pair of games, double heading on the 8th and 10th of October will be the perfect precursor to them suiting up together for Team USA for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next Summer. Just like this game series split as a whole will be as each team looks to take each other out in one punch in this Saitama Super Arena showdown in the Saitama City event in the Kanto Region of the Tokyo prefecture. The NBA last played a regular season game here in the year of 2003 after a calender worth of 12 games between 1990 and then, from Tokyo to Yokohama. As a matter of fact a 90’s classic between the Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns in Tokyo was the first time any sports franchise in North America played a regular season game anywhere outside the United States. But with the big draw that both this globe growing league and city is right now, it has nothing on this exhibition of two of the top talents in the association.
And after these twin Tokyo Games partnered by Japanese media giant Rakuten, next year’s 2020 Olympics and the legacy making legend of Watanabe, who knows what all this could offer. A permanent fixture in the Far East? Or even a Tokyo team?!
It’s all set to blossom like cherry this season.
The Warriors Came Out To Play This Series
Even without the fantasy Basketball of Kevin Durant in this series, the Golden State Warriors still brought out the brooms like ‘Fantasia’.
And swept out of Game 4 like Thanos click finger dust, the Portland Trailblazers may have only lost by a bucket (119-117)…and in overtime at that. But with all the Splash they had to contend with this series from brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they were left dealing with more leaks and holes in all of their own ones like Mickey Mouse in said Disney epic.
This was meant to be the showdown between Dell Curry’s boys Steph and Seth which divided a household. And although the youngest gun stepped up to the plate, swung big in this carnival and knocked them down, big brother was always watching.
Steph Curry averaged over 36 points a game this series. Just read that again. 36 points. Right now we don’t need to talk about Kevin.
The Warriors are a dynasty for the ages even without their best player (although this writer thinks he wasn’t missing this entire series). The first team to make it to five straight finals since the Boston Celtics. The 1960’s Bill Russell Celtics. That’s King James crowning legendary. And Steph Curry with the shot and that facet of the game is just as iconic and dominant as a Bill block.
Give some credit to a blazing Portland side who never gave up despite the box score. They can hold their heads in the PDX. Even in their Moda Center home-stand City Of Roses end in RIP City. Their season eulogy should read as a celebration and commiseration, not a trolling condescension from critically entitled fans who have done nothing to determine the outcome of these games and could never make it this far in their wildest memes. They call themselves “influencers”? Well no one’s going to remember them in 50 years.
The NBA will remember one of their Top 100 greatest of all-time in a half century though. As after hitting the biggest buzzer beater in playoff history against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Damian Lillard played through the pain of separated ribs this series and still made the Basketball God’s look down from the hoop heavens with praise. Like New York singer St. Vincent tweeted, “Damian Lillard is my hero”. Even his backcourt brother of splash CJ McCollum in the only small man set up to rival Curry and Klay came out to play against the Warriors after midrange mining the Nuggets into submission in Denver just over a week ago.
But Curry’s red hot triple double, starter, mains and dessert dish of 37, 13 and 11, to go along with a playing not crying, Draymond Green’s day of 18, 14 and 11 assists also was just too much in the clutch. As Stephen and Dray became the first teammates in NBA history to have a triple double in the same playoff game. Forget how much this team can unbelievably keep winning, how does this ball manage to get shared this much?
Well that just may be the secret of success?
The real test is dubbed next however in the Warriors last season in Golden State before they move across that Golden bridge to the Silicon Valley of a digital age in San Francisco. They will play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks (probably…Giannis…MVP. Sorry Toronto but come on!) and Raptors series. But by then they should have some guy called Kevin back.
I mean come on. This has been getting crazy. This is just out of hand like said ball in Splash City.
Now Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ record of eight straight finals and wins doesn’t look far out of reach for Steph Curry and the player and team with the biggest range in the association over the gate of the Pacific.
Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park
“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”
Fans find a way.
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.
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.