At the downtown Toronto intersection of Front Street and University Avenue, a young man named Ali joined a handful of fans celebrating the Toronto Raptors NBA championship victory over the Golden State Warriors by shimmying up one of traffic light polls.
Asked why he was up there, he simply replied “We’re the six!’
The victory was certainly a celebration for ‘The 6ix’ — a nickname popularized by hometown Raptors fan and superstar rapper Drake. But the Raptors have become more than just a Toronto team, with people across the country celebrating the first Canadian team to win an NBA championship.
Dozens of cities across Ontario also held packed viewing events, as did many other places from coast to coast, including Halifax, which threw a massive outdoor block party.
Montreal shut down two city blocks to allow the improbable: people cheering a team from Toronto. Thousands braved the rain, forming a red tide, as organizers handing out “We the North” T-shirts.
Drake: “Tonight belongs to Toronto.” The musician and global ambassador spent the night in Jurassic Park and watched the Toronto Raptors take home the NBA championship. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TorontoRaptors?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TorontoRaptors</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RaptorsIn6ix?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RaptorsIn6ix</a> <br>Read more: <a href=”https://t.co/BKTgfKFigt”>https://t.co/BKTgfKFigt</a> <a href=”https://t.co/liltndZO6J”>pic.twitter.com/liltndZO6J</a>
But in Toronto, the win sent thousands onto the streets, a sea of people loudly cheering, waving flags, high-fiving each other and clogging up some of the major downtown intersections near the Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Raptors.
WATCH | Fans from across the country react to win
The victory was something Winston Kenley had been waiting for his whole life — a life that has existed about as long as the basketball team.
“I’m a little older than the franchise. This is amazing,” he said.
Kenley’s reaction — frenzied celebration, jumping up and down, arms in the air, shouting and screaming — was no different than most of the nearly 1,500 fans who had jammed into the main square of Jurassic Park to watch the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6.
Wiping away tears, 64-year-old George Bannon, a familiar presence at Jurassic Park known for his eye-catching Raptors jacket, could barely get the words out to describe his reaction.
“Pride, relief. Unbelievable,” he said. “So happy for our city, our country. I’m so proud of our athletes. They’re the greatest. It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now.”
Jurassic Park has become a central point for fan celebration in Toronto. Drake sat on the main stage watching the game on Thursday. Toronto Mayor John Tory was in the front row with the crowd, taking pictures with people, mingling with fans.
WATCH | Jurassic Park reacts to championship win
“It’s unbelievable,” Tory said minutes after the historic win. “This is the greatest team. It’s the best fans in the world and it’s the greatest city in the world and how could you get any better than that. We’re going to have the best parade in the world.”
Subi Mahan brought his young sons to the Park. He had celebrated with his late father in 1993 when Toronto Blue Jays won their back-to-back World Series Championship.
“I need to pay it forward so my kids could take it in, as a minority with a multicultural team like the Toronto Raptors,” Mahan said.
“They were forecasting thunderstorms. But the only thunderstorm was us winning the championship.”
As part of the celebrations, some fans set off firecrackers. And there were at least a few significant incidents of vandalism. Some fans destroyed the windows of a police car. At Yonge and Dundas streets, a TTC bus positioned to block the street was tagged with graffiti and had windows kicked out while some fans sat on the roof singing O Canada.
WATCH | Crowds swarm Yonge-Dundas Square after Raptors victory
At the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, at least one fan climbed onto the veranda, prompting some to dare him to jump, while others begged him not to.
But for the most part, fans seemed to be on good behaviour.
“This is unreal. I’ve waited so long for this. Nothing like it,” said Justin Harrison from Hamilton. “I’m not going to sleep for like 10 days.”
Danny Salman 20, said it was important to come out and celebrate on the street so the Raptors could see the fans coming together in the city.
“It shows the togetherness of all the fans. I just had to come out.”
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Barada Saraf, who had been watching the game from a downtown bar. “I don’t know what it’s like for a Toronto team to win something.”
“Look at this,” she said, looking at the massive crowd. “How can you not be here. It’s unreal.”