After a nerve-wracking and historic playoff run that ended with the Toronto Raptors winning their first NBA title, the time has come for the team and its fans to bask in the glory of victory.
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the corporation that owns the Raptors, will host the team’s official championship parade and rally in downtown Toronto on Monday.
A spokesperson for MLSE declined to estimate how many people are expected to attend, but said the corporation and city are “obviously prepared for very large crowds along the parade route” and at Nathan Phillips Square, where the procession will end.
- You can watch CBC News Special: Raptors Championship Parade, hosted by The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault and CBC Toronto’s Dwight Drummond, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, on CBC Gem or via livestream on CBCNews.ca, on CBC Television in Ontario and CBC News Network across Canada. The special will air from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.
- You can listen to CBC Radio One in Ontario for live coverage hosted by Metro Morning‘s Matt Galloway starting at 12 p.m. ET.
At a media event Sunday afternoon, head coach Nick Nurse and some of the top Raptors players spoke to media at the Raptors’ training facility — and they all said they’re excited to celebrate the historic win with the city.
“This has become my second home for me and my family. It’s just good to be back here,” said point guard Fred VanVleet.
“I’m looking forward to the parade. Im looking forward to enjoying the moment with the city.”
And fans are more than ready to enjoy the moment along with them.
Some devoted Raps fans started camping out in Nathan Phillips Square yesterday morning to secure a good spot for the rally.
Morteza Hashimi said he “grew up watching basketball” and fell in love with the Raptors at a young age. He spent the night on the concrete of the square because he wanted to have an unobstructed view.
“It’s really important because the amount of years we’ve spent watching this team, the amount of heartbreaks, the devastation that we’ve had in playoffs and the really bad years that we’ve gone through,” Hashimi reflected.
I’ll probably tear up a little bit to be honest with you.
– Morteza Hasimi, lifelong raptors fan
“To finally have this great achievement, it’s really important to have front row seats to be able see and witness everything.”
He’s preparing for an emotional day.
“I’ll probably tear up a little bit to be honest with you,” he laughed.
Dave and Darren Pierre came down from Ottawa, backpacks stuffed with blankets and supplies, to “witness Canadian history.”
“I mean, this could be once in a lifetime. Having a championship in Toronto, especially in Canada, I just can’t miss this,” said Dave.
The pair figured they’d have to arrive early, given the crowds that filled Jurassic Park through the playoffs.
“I just want the best seat in the house. I want to be able to see it with my own two eyes,” said Darren.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid. All that emotion, all that joy. Watching them over the years — it’s unbelievable.”
‘We the North Day’ in Toronto
Ahead of the festivities, Toronto Mayor John Tory declared today “We the North Day” in the city.
“This victory is also for the passionate Toronto Raptors fans, who are the best in the league and filled Jurassic Parks in Toronto and across the country,” Tory said in his official proclamation.
“This championship is the culmination of years of patience, support, devotion and belief. Toronto has proven that it is a basketball city and that the game thrives in The North.”
Monday is going to be a dino-sized parade for the <a href=”https://twitter.com/Raptors?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Raptors</a> championship celebration. If you normally drive downtown, leave your car at home and take transit. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheNorth</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheChampions?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheChampions</a> <a href=”https://t.co/typtpmi4nL”>pic.twitter.com/typtpmi4nL</a>
The team, along with the Larry O’Brien Trophy, will be riding in open-air double-decker buses during the parade, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET at the Princes’ Gates at Exhibition Place.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are also getting in on the fun, with a planned flyover of the rally at around 12:30 p.m. ET.
The parade route and schedule:
- The parade will leave the Princes’ Gates at 10 a.m. and head east on Lake Shore Boulevard.
- It will turn north on York Street and continue north on University Avenue.
- It will turn east on Queen Street to enter Nathan Phillips Square at 12:30 p.m.
The post-parade rally is scheduled to wrap up around 1:30 p.m.
A viewing party will be held at Coronation Park at 711 Lake Shore Boulevard W. on the waterfront.
There will be lots of traffic and transit disruptions throughout the parade, as police plan to enforce rolling closures along the route. Everything you need to know about road closures and transit diversions can be found here.
Raptors players, coaches and staff started returning to the city on various flights on Saturday to throngs of cheering fans gathered at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Since their Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriors last week, many players have been celebrating in Las Vegas alongside rapper Drake.
Nonetheless, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement that the team will be ready to keep the party going.
“This means so much to our city and to many in Canada, and we are looking forward to showing everyone the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Monday,” he said.
“Bringing the NBA championship to Toronto is the realization of a goal for our team and for our players, and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate together with our fans.”