by Judy Basmaji, Zahra Aldunia and Katherine Villanueva
Nearly two million fans flooded Toronto’s downtown on Monday in celebration of the Raptors’ historic NBA Championship win at the victory parade.
Surrounded by cheering crowds, the team slowly made their way along the scheduled route in several open-air double-decker red buses. They were accompanied by family and friends, the Raptors’ global ambassador Drake, and the Larry O’Brien championship trophy held high in their hands.
Thousands started filling up the streets in red and black Raptors gear starting as early as 6 am in anticipation of this momentous event. Legions of young fans were climbing poles, singing the national anthem, waving flags and holding up signs as the parade inched its way through the jammed streets.
From toddlers to the elderly, fans of all ages skipped school and work to attend the parade. They were determined to brave the crowds and the summer heat to catch a glimpse of the champions.
The massive crowds delayed the parade’s travel from the Exhibition Place to Nathan Phillips Square by several hours. The parade, which was scheduled to arrive in the square at 12:30 pm, did not arrive until 3:30 pm. The City of Toronto faced some backlash in the aftermath of the event for organizational shortcomings that resulted in chaos and safety risks. A number of subway stations were temporarily closed due to overcrowding.
The festivities were further marred by multiple violent incidents that took place near Nathan Phillips Square. A shooting and two stabbings resulted in several serious injuries and three arrests. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wished all of them a speedy recovery, and thanked Toronto Police for acting so quickly, stating that “We won’t let this act of violence take away from the spirit of today’s parade.”
Amid the celebrations there was endless speculation about MVP Kawhi Leonard’s future with the Raptors. Canada’s favourite Raptor may soon be leaving the team and becoming a free agent for the final year of his contract.
Prior to the parade, Mayor John Tory declared Monday as “We The North” Day to honor the team. At the rally, Tory gave each of the players a key to the city and handed the official key to Kawhi. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford were also present at the rally.
City council voted unanimously on Wednesday to rename part of Bremner Boulevard “Raptors Way”.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) June 19, 2019