Last Saturday forever changed Toronto’s sports landscape as the Toronto Raptors advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
I can’t help but crack a smile replaying flashbacks of myself running around my downtown Toronto condo in sheer joy watching my hometown Toronto Raptors make basketball history.
For Torontonians, this isn’t just about our team going to the NBA Finals. This is about proving our worth as a city. As a nation. And proudly proclaiming, We The North.
Raptors Influence On My Basketball Career
I’m no stranger to championship games. Born and raised in Markham, Ontario, Canada I’ve competed at the highest competitive levels all over the globe as a professional female basketball player. I played 12 years in the WNBA and 12 years overseas in Korea, Russia, and Turkey. I also proudly suited up to represent Team Canada in the 2000 Olympics. Basketball is how I developed a passion for travel.
Throughout my career, I won 7 Championships. But I’m just as excited for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals as I was for myself in each of my own championship games.
The NBA Finals in Toronto Comes Full Circle
The NBA Finals kicking off in Toronto feels like a homecoming of sorts. After all, basketball was invented by a Canadian, James Naismith. And for me, I’ve been a diehard Toronto Raptors fan since their infancy in 1995.
This team helped me believe that a young Canadian girl from Markham can and deserves to play basketball at the highest competitive levels worldwide. And for that, I’ll always be eternally grateful for this organization and its impact on my life both during and after my basketball career.
The NBA Finals Are Here. Now What?
What the Toronto Raptors accomplished this season is awesome. But, there are still four games to win! The entire city of Toronto is sparking with electric energy. Eagerly waiting for the NBA Finals to start.
And can you blame us? This is Toronto’s first legitimate chance, in any major sport, at a championship since the Toronto Blue Jays won back-to-back MLB World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993.
Considering that I’ve won a few championships in my career, here are some words of advice for the Toronto Raptors as they prepare to start the NBA Finals tonight as Scotiabank Arena.
Relax and Keep Jitters At Bay
First-time jitters will definitely pop up. Even for vets who’ve been to the Finals before. Don’t fear these jitters though. Embrace the adrenaline and relax into it. Stick to the routine that got you to the Finals in the first place. Whether it’s a pre-game nap or watching film before games. Don’t start doing anything different. Just relax, have fun and enjoy this experience.
Stay Focused and Keep Your Head In The Game
Don’t get too caught up with the hoopla surrounding the NBA Finals. Trust me, I know there’s a ton of distractions that surround the Finals, from extra media requests to family and friends asking for tickets.
Do all your mandatory media requests, but once it’s game time, lock-in, stay focused, and play your game. I cannot stress this enough because once you lose focus, you’ve lost the game.
Every practice. Every extra shot you put up in the gym. Every early morning run has prepared you for this moment. The preparation is done. And now, it’s time to stay confident in your game and just go out there and play your butt off on the court. Keep telling yourself positive affirmations that you’re going to win! Repeat, you’re going to win! Visualize yourself winning. Always go into each game with the belief that you’re going to win.
Enjoy The Moment and the NBA FInals Experience
As a top-level athlete, you’ve probably dreamed about this moment all your basketball life. Be present and take in the rare air. Recognize what you’ve accomplished. But also know you’ve got more work to do. Take it one game at a time.
Everyone will have their own predictions on how many games the Finals series will go. Their opinions don’t matter. All that matters right now is the opinions of the 15 guys in the locker room going to battle with you.
Not many athletes get an opportunity to play in a championship game at the highest level. But you’re in the NBA Finals, so you did something right. Everything you need to win is already in you.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
This goes without saying. Kawhi has played awesome for the Toronto Raptors this season. But he didn’t get to the NBA Finals on his own.
Every single player on the roster has contributed to getting to the Finals. A player may not play a single minute on the court. But they’re likely great in the locker room and keeping up team morale. Every player regardless of minutes is just as valuable as the player scoring 30 points a night. Winning the championship requires legit teamwork, and everyone locked into their game.
Nick Nurse Is The Only Head Coach
I love Drake’s passion for the team, and the love he has for the city of Toronto. I actually had the chance to play for Coach Drake during the 2016 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. He was great!
However, remember this is Nick Nurse’s team. Drake can cheer as loud as he wants and have fun. But, hopefully, he’ll forgo giving Coach Nurse neck massages during the game. We can celebrate with all the neck massages we want after the Raptors win the NBA Championship!
My Closing Words
I wish the Toronto Raptors all the best in what’s sure to be a nerve-wracking NBA Finals. I’d much rather be on the court playing. But if the Toronto Raptors play hard and together, they have a really good shot at the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Let’s do this, Toronto!
WNBA Champion & Olympian
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