/Raptors Fever Takes Toronto, as a Diverse City Embraces a Team That Looks Like It

Raptors Fever Takes Toronto, as a Diverse City Embraces a Team That Looks Like It


TORONTO — The younger males have been taking pictures baskets close to their dwelling in a Toronto suburb on Sunday, however have been pleased to pause to supply a rigorously thought-about, if partisan, evaluation on the Toronto Raptors’ possibilities of turning into the primary non-American workforce to win the N.B.A. championship.

“It’s Canada versus everybody,” stated Nasir Tahir, 13, as he held a basketball with the Raptors’ black-and-red colours, the workforce emblem way back erased by the asphalt. “They’ve got it.”

“Hopefully,” he added, in a word of warning.

“Basketball has always been a big part of our lives,” stated Nasir, whose mother and father immigrated from Pakistan.

The sport, stated 13-year-old Shayan Rajput, Nasir’s cousin, is “multicultural, it includes everybody.”

Hockey could be the reigning monarch of sports activities in Canada, however basketball additionally has a grip on the country’s imagination. This season, it has been given a lift by the spectacular showing of the Raptors.

At a strip mall parking lot not far from Nasir’s house, two Palestinian immigrants who are roadside flag merchants on the weekend have observed the change, and profited from it.

Issa Mahmoud’s Chevrolet was festooned with small black flags bearing the Raptors’ logo or the team’s “We The North” slogan, clipped onto its side windows.

Last year, he said, he sold maybe five flags, at a price of five Canadian dollars. This past weekend alone, he sold about 50 for 20 dollars or more; the exact price, he explained, “is up to the customer.”

Business aside, Mr. Mahmoud, 54, said he was pleased by the Toronto area’s embrace of basketball. He grew up playing the sport on the streets of the West Bank, he said, and recalls gathering around a small black-and-white television to watch Michael Jordan play.

Yazan Awad, a 19-year-old family friend helping Mr. Mahmoud, said the social media posts of those in his circle were dominated by Raptors talk.

Would that be the case if the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have the same owners and play in the same arena as the Raptors, were now in the Stanley Cup finals?

“I don’t think so, to be honest,” he said. “Maybe a couple of them, but most people would not be as pumped as this.”

At Walter Saunders Memorial Park, in an ethnically diverse Toronto neighborhood, Jessie Rarang, a 19-year-old-son of immigrants from the Philippines, was one of about two dozen teenage boys and girls playing pickup games on a uneven, unmarked court.

“The fact that everybody is coming together to root for one thing is pretty cool,” Mr. Rarang said, of his hopes for the Raptors. “We never had that around basketball before.”

The top prices demanded for playoff tickets mean that few Torontoians have been able to afford to experience the Raptors’ glory in person. Their proxy is a comparatively small area outside the arena with a giant television. It’s known as Jurassic Park.

On Sunday evening about two dozen people were camped out in its holding area more than 24 hours before the game. They included one man with an inventive tent and cot combination and another, well into middle age, sleeping under a plastic poncho as traffic roared on a nearby road and an elevated expressway above.

Sam Gencher, a 19-year-old student from nearby Hamilton, Ontario, was among those waiting.

“I’m in full Raptors fan mode,” he said.

But, to pass the time, he was reading a book about hockey.

“The true Canadian spirit lies in the game of hockey,” he said, as a nearby Canadian Broadcasting Corporation crew prepared for a live report on its main nightly newscast. “As a good Canadian boy I’ve got to mix the two.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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