To me, Time beat the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. The Toronto Raptors get the trophy and the parade and the rings and the banner raising and all the delectable, hedonistic spoils that goes along with winning the NBA Finals. The media will praise Kawhi Leonard’s toughness and Kyle Lowry’s steadfastness and continue to laud over General Manager Masai Ujir‘s aggressive, calculating moves and his Theo Epstein-like way he used Analytics and research to quickly rebuild a winning culture into a championship culture.

Some would say transforming winners is harder than transforming losers. Pride & ego and such.

The media will do that, in part, because there’s money in that praise.

There’s even more money to be made in the fall of the Warriors. A whole lot of jealousy directed at a team lead by a backcourt of 2nd-generation NBA players who never had to financially want in their life and backboned by the best scorer basketball’s ever seen. The market for their demise is bigger than the fact Toronto, and “Canada,” won their first NBA title.

At least, for the moment.

Eventually, Silver will use the “international champion” to push for a London team and a Montreal team and another Vancouver team (sorry, Seattle. Keep pushing, though).

Holy shit. I was just guessing on expansion. Then I researched.

Site: TheSource.com

For now, the stories are Ying and Yang, and the market is eating it up. The NBA is swimmin’ in the dollars and the “pundits” have self-writing content that will lead them to the banner raising next season in Toronto.

Make no mistake. Toronto won the 2019 NBA Finals, but Time beat The Warriors.

While I’m bitter the Warriors lost, let’s be clear:

1 – I love Kawhi Leonard.

He publicly does right in terms of both basketball and superstardom. I still hold question marks out for how he left San Antonio. I’m not an insider.

Neither are most who get paid to be NBA insiders, but still.

Not many really knows how that went down. But, despite the fact he’s no longer with coach Pop, which slays me, I love him.

And for him, that’s two rings now. Two teams. Two Finals MVPs. Two different conferences. Two epic teams defeated – the LeBron Heat and the Warriors (sorta).

2 – I admire Kyle Lowry.

I appreciate the body of work Lowry’s been able to produce over his career. Solid dedication. If you want your kids to learn what it takes to make it to the NBA, you tell the ballad of Kyle Lowry. He doesn’t soar over opponents. He doesn’t dominate the paint. He’s not a lockdown defender. He’s just solid and well skill, with a consistent jumper. And he seems to outwork most everyone else.

3 – Masai Ujir’s got a chance at to cement how a full NBA team should be comprised.

For the dice roll Toronto Raptors GM Ujir made to go after a Kawhi Leonard in exchange for beloved DeMar DeRozan, he made many more Island-of-Misfit-Toys movies to cobble together a roster. He drafted Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, rolled the dice previously on a recovering OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick (who’s recovering, again) in the 2017 NBA Draft, traded for an aging Marc Gasol when most pundits thought he couldn’t keep up in the Raptor offense, and traded a first rounder and Terrance Ross for Serge Ibaka, who didn’t look like the OKC Serge Ibaka in Orlando.

Then he fired NBA Coach of the Year Dwayne Casey, looked down his coaching roster, and seemingly pulled Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse’s name out of a hat to be their next head coach.

“You don’t know Nick Nurse. He’s earned it. Look at his story.”

Yes, it’s an impressive story. Cinderella, in fact. That’s part of the point. Hat tip to Ujir.

So long as Ujir can tone down his celebrations...

4 – Again, the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals.

I’m not arguing that they didn’t. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t. They didn’t get an Adam Silver stimulus package (see 2016 NBA Finals).

I’m still pissed about the 2016 NBA Finals.

I don’t always agree with Stephen A. Smith, but his take on the 2016 NBA Finals aligns with mine. Start at 2:44 when I truly jump on board. So damned true. ~$90,00,000.00 for the NBA later…

I’m not pissed Toronto won the 2019 NBA Finals. Part of me likes it. A small, insignificant part of me tucked away in a deep dark corner for self preservation so Bay Area will open their crowded doors to me on my next visit. I’m not pissed.

Toronto won their games. Props to them for that.

To call them ‘Champions’ at this point, to me, still feels premature.

If you beat a decent team in the Finals, one without much recent success, you can automatically take the title “Champion.” But, you’d still have to prove your worth.

If you’re facing a team on an all-time great run, and that team is at their weakest point in the run, and you don’t beat them soundly, then there’s still more work to do garner the respect to go with the trophy. The financial contributors might not care as much, but History will. And History’s the one who decides your greatness.

In this series, Time did as much work as the Raptors.

Time took out nearly every one of the Warrior’s solid contributor along the way, 9 reported injuries, and the Warriors’ kept a’comin’.

Steph Curry sprained his foot at the end of the season. He wouldn’t admit it, but it kept him a step slow. Then he had to shoot with a dislocated finger from the Houston series.

Center DeMarcus Cousins went down in the first round, game 2. Torn left quad. Warriors keep a’comin’.

Kevin Durant went down in the second around against Houston with a strained calf, and instead of folding to the team most thought would be the heir apparent in the West, the Warriors won the next two, knocked out Houston’s bloated ass and swept the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.

Glue-guy Andre Iguodala fought through hamstring injuries, robbing him of Western Conference Finals game 3, and hampering him the rest of the playoffs. He was runnin’ on love for teammates.

Along the way, Center Kevon Looney fractured cartilage and was essentially playing one-handed.

I didn’t know one could fracture cartilage.

Yet, they made it to the NBA Finals. The Warriors kept a’comin’.

But, Time wasn’t done. Time gave back DeMarcus Cousins, but took away his explosiveness and leaping ability and conditioning.

Time brought back Kevin Durant in game 5, for a beautiful, miraculous 12-minutes at the price of a ruptured Achilles and 9-12 months of rehabilitation.

Time pushed so hard on Kevon Looney’s injury in Game 5 that Iguodala forced Looney to sit. Time took his body but not his spirit.

Time took Klay Thompson’s hamstring. He missed parts of game 2, all of Game 3, and was under close scrutiny the rest of the series at the pain continued to bothered him.

Klay fought back. He was having the best game 6 of all his historic game 6’s and the Warriors, with the lead, were starting a run in the 3rd quarter when Time took Klay Thompson’s ACL.

In true Klay Thompson fashion, Klay told Time to kiss his ass, walked back from the locker rooms, took two final Free Throws, and jogged off stage left before riding off on crutches into the Oakland sunset.

And, still, the Warriors kept a’comin’.

DeMarcus Cousins fought through the sheath near the end of game 6, but by then, Time caught back up to Steph Curry. From the weight of shouldering the load on a bum wheel for a second Finals game to a hard – albeit legal – screen from Marc Gasol, Time defeated Curry, nudged his game 6 game-winner off the rim…


…and let Agony do the rest.

Even then, the Warriors kept a’comin’.

If I’m the Raptors, I don’t feel like I’m a champion. Not yet.

I feel great. I’m probably still drunk and not sure if I’m in Oakland or Toronto, or Dubai.

But afterwhile, when things settle down and the staff’s detailed the jet and the work in the gym won’t do itself, I’ll start to feel like Rocky in Rocky III when he realized Mickey’s been protecting him.

Which sets up the incredible “Eye of the Tiger Speech” followed by Adrian’s speech.

Maybe it’s just motivation, but I won’t feel like the best ever. I’ll realized I haven’t yet beat anyone at their best, and I’ll feel, as Clubber Lang phrased it, like a ‘paper champ.‘ I’ll feel like Time beat the Warriors moreso than we did.

“What did you say, Paper Champion? I’ll beat you like a dog, a dog, you fool! “

Rocky later better explained it during his first meeting with Donnie (Adonis Johnson) in Creed:

Adonis: How good was he?

Rocky: Who, Apollo? Yeah. He was great. M’mm…He’s the perfect fighter. Ain’t nobody ever better.

Adonis: So how’d you beat’m?

Rocky: Time beat him. Time, you know, takes everybody out. It’s undefeated.

Movie: Creed (2015).

I’d feel like a paper champ until we properly defended it. Or we lost. Either way, it’d gnaw at me otherwise.

Toronto needs a Clubber Lang. A proper champ, at their peak, to knock out.           

“I’m gonna bust you up.”
“Go for it.”

We as a society hand out Championships all the time. They’re Cash Cows.

But, to be a true champion, a remembered champion, you have to:

  • Beat the best at their best.
  • Sustain your success over an extended period of time.

Toronto hasn’t yet done either. Not that they couldn’t, but their success is still piecemealed.

Part of the problem is that they came out of the East.

No one truly respects any other Eastern Conference team. To most, winning the East is like advancing to the 2nd round of the Western Conference playoffs.

A la: the biggest knock on LeBron James.

That the Raptors took 7 games and  4-bounce series-winner to beat a young Philly team structured around a dynamic point guard who can’t shoot, a dynamic center who can’t stay healthy, and Jimmy Buckets, who can’t seem to stay in the good graces of his teammates, leaves skepticisim room to breathe.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, pardon the pun, the young Milwaukee Bucks looked like deer in headlights from game 3 on. A bit weird.

Part of the problem is the Raptors got robbed of their chance to beat the best.

Its’s not like Toronto diabolically injured Warrior players.

  • Thompson tore his ACL on a hard foul, but it wasn’t a dirty play.
  • Curry’s quad was still a visible issue in game 6 after getting stonewalled on a Gasol screen, but once again, it was a good play.

Folks in Toronto, too, have been gracious in victory. And in true Canadian fashion, they’ve appeared to be awesome in their understanding. All fans should be like Canadian fans. Amazing.

If next year, Toronto can wear the crown, live with the bullseye strapped to their back, run the gauntlet, and defeat an opponent better positioned to win, I’ll tip my hat to them.

They’ll be on their way. They’ll have enough to consider both signature wins and sustained success. It would be cool to see them do it, to keep Leonard, and to not give into the big-market hype that often dampens my love of the NBA.

I’m debating with friends about this on Twitter right now.

One thinks I’m being a petulant Warriors fan. He’s a Detroit fan. They’ll still applaud the Bad Boys as the best team ever, because desperation is funny like that.

The legendary Max Power is the other one. He’s not too stirred about anything, but if I’m guessing, just loves the chaos and will fight to protect the spinning wheel – not that he’d take the effort to care.

I enjoy the discussion because it’s an examination of a real-time hero’s journey. Most stories stop at the mountaintop, whether it’s upon finally achieving it or returning to the summit. A hero’s journey seldom discusses sustaining it, and the actual point when a Champion truly gives up the crown. While the trophy sells merchandise, the respect, fear, & belief held by those directly involve as to the true champion is a much better indicator.

Let’s put it to a question: who’s really going to be feared going into next year? Toronto? Or if LeBron James gets a running mate?

Let’s ask it again in a few months, if Klay and KD take their rumored 5-year max extensions and recover from their injuries.

Then see who’s there next year.

To put it another way:

Right now, Toronto’s victory was opportunistic. They’re Scar, but with less scheming.

“Long live the king.”

I don’t blame them. They were on the biggest stage. That was the role presented to them. They took it. It’s the game. Someone has to lose. They would have been sued by Adam Silver had they not. Hold that trophy high. Throw it in Boston’s face. Throw it in LeBron’s face. Throw it in Sliver’s face for not giving him another ~$50 million dollar game 7. Enjoy it.

Here’s to hoping Toronto gets a chance to show they’re Mufasa. Or Simba.

“Run. Run away, Scar. And never return.”

We’ll see how long their reign lasts.

I appreciate Toronto’s adulation.

I get their plight. I’m a Cubs fan. Coming back from 3-1 to win our first World Series in 108 years is a joy perhaps no other American sports fan will ever properly feel, for at least a few generations. But I don’t believe the Cubs are true Champions until they can repeat it, like how Boston validated their greatness by winning in 2004 and 2007. And 2013. And 2018.

Now, we’ll see if they can be remembered for it.

I love in Creed II, how fight promoter Buddy Marcelle frames the idea:

Buddy Marcelle: In the history of boxing there have been seventy-seven heavyweight champions. You know that? How many you think they know? Four? Five? The belt ain’t enough. You need a narrative, something that sticks to the ribs. Your dad, he knew that.

Movie: Creed II (2018)

Next year will determine whether or not history remembers Toronto’s efforts or if they become a footnote, like the 2004 Pistons wedged between the San Antonio Spurs run.

Either way, I’m praying for a rematch. Raptors / Warriors II. No injuries. No restrictions.

The best vs. the best, both at their best. That’s all I ever really want to see.

As Klay’s dad said, there’s unfinished business left.

And, I think everyone from DubNation to Canada, and every basketball fan everywhere, is hoping for the same thing. What a series that would be for basketball.

Update: Then again, it took a day for the story to go back to Dub nation.

Featured Image Source: Wikimedia.org – who probably got it from the NBA press kit.

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