The power of a tweet: how DeMar DeRozan changed the game

U of T professor praises former Raptors player for his openness on mental health

The power of a tweet: how DeMar DeRozan changed the game

In the early morning of February 17, 2018, former Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan posted a short but impactful tweet: “This depression get the best of me…”

Those seven words caused a storm in the sports and psychology realms alike. So much so that U of T Faculty of Medicine Associate Professor of Psychiatry Mark Sinyor felt moved to write an op-ed about it for the Toronto Star.

In the article, Sinyor explained how Derozan’s willingness to share his struggle with depression has allowed for a conversation about mental health both in and out of sport to develop. He told the Star that, especially for young male fans, who make up a large portion of the NBA’s viewer base, mental health issues are often seen as a chink in the armour, or a sign of failure.

“It’s a constant battle because illnesses like depression make sufferers feel hopeless and many, especially men, still have the tragic impression that seeking help is weak or even shameful,” he wrote. By opening up, even with a simple tweet, DeRozan proved to fans and fellow players alike that you could be a four-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA Team member, and an Olympian, and still struggle with mental health issues like depression. These struggles aren’t indicative of failure, but rather, they are a challenge worth overcoming.

Sinyor wrote that he is sure that DeRozan’s story impacted many, especially young male fans, who are susceptible to burying mental health struggles and worsening them as a result. “They saw it and said to themselves, ‘DeMar is fighting this and winning… Maybe I can too.’”

In an email to The Varsity, Sinyor explained that “the reason that efforts to decrease stigma are so important in sport is because [they reach] such a wide audience and, in the case of men’s basketball, an audience of men that is often socialized not to talk about their feelings.”

This is what inspired him to write the piece. In his own experience as a psychiatrist at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, he “heard echoes of the voices in [his] office” in DeRozan’s divulsion. Also an academic, Sinyor devotes most of his expertise to “spreading messages of resilience because research shows that resilience is actually contagious.” DeRozan’s simple tweet was a clear message of resilience, resounding across the NBA and leading to an explosion of solidarity.

Enthusiastic to keep DeRozan’s momentum going, Sinyor expressed that “my hope is that efforts by DeRozan and people like him will make it easier for everyone to speak up about their mental health struggles and to reach out for help when needed.”

The prevalence of the mental health conversation in professional sports seems to be increasing, and athletes are likely to keep moving the conversation forward as these issues continue to come to light.

Moving away from “mental toughness”: VanVleet, Brittni Donaldson talk mental health at Goldring

Speakers discussed personal growth, difficulty with balancing mental health with sports

Moving away from “mental toughness”: VanVleet, Brittni Donaldson talk mental health at Goldring

The Varsity Blues Basketball Excellence program hosted a mental health panel at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on October 29 with Toronto Raptors guard Fredderick VanVleet along with Brittni Donaldson, and Jarred Dubois among others. The speakers discussed their relationship with mental health on a day-to-day basis, and how they have learned to interact with others while keeping mental health in mind.

VanVleet’s personal growth

VanVleet spoke about the challenges that he faced growing up and the evolution of his relationship with his own mental health. Growing up, VanVleet faced a lot of personal troubles, which he said he needed to block out due to the expectation of “mental toughness” in his basketball career. He said that mental health was not something that he felt he had to deal with, especially when his whole life was revolving around basketball.

“But it wasn’t until I had kids that I really started thinking about what that means for me as a person and what my parents passed down to me, what I’m able to pass down to them,” said VanVleet. “You just start thinking… ‘how do I better myself and better the people around me so that we’re not passing down destructive emotions, feelings, thought processes,’ whatever the case may be. So you took the flip from ‘okay, I have to be mentally tough’ when I’m playing a game, but also what does that mean for me as a man, as a father, as a son to pass that on to my kids so they have a clean slate.”

He said that he needed to revisit a lot of personal trauma that he hadn’t dealt with, and thought back on certain experiences that shaped him into the man he is today. VanVleet stressed the importance of having conversations about mental health, and passing on these conversations onto the younger generation.

The difficulty of discussing mental health in sports

Brittni Donaldson, Assistant Coach of the Toronto Raptors, who played four seasons for the University of Northern Iowa basketball program, discussed her personal difficulties in being asked to leave her emotions aside in athletic settings. “Mental toughness is a term that’s used almost daily in our environment and what it means in the environment of basketball and [other] sports is suppressing any sort of emotion or feeling,” Donaldson said. “Putting [them] on the back end in order to complete the task that’s in front of you.”

She said that this not only applies to her emotional state, but her physical pain as well. “You’re kind of conditioned as an athlete to just push through those types of things or just ignore them completely in order to complete the task at hand,” she continued. “For me personally that manifests itself in a physical form. I played collegiate basketball and every day [I] was preached to about mental toughness. If you weren’t mentally tough, you weren’t going to play.”

“I ended up pushing myself so far away from my inner dialogue and the things that were going on in my body and my mind that I was playing through injuries and not even realizing it. And it got to a point where I had to have reconstructive leg surgery and to be told I could never play again for me to realize [that] I’m that far away from my inner dialogue and what my body, my mind is telling me.”

Getting the discussion started early

Jarred Dubois, Assistant Coach for the Detroit Pistons and Founder of the non-profit organization, Everyone Has a Story, spoke about how he wanted to make sure young athletes at his kids camp were receiving proper help. “We started with bringing in mental wellness professionals to speak to the parents,” Dubois explained.

“We all know that a lot of parents — especially in youth sports — are very forceful in trying to get kids to perform at a high level. You’ve got to be the next Fred, you’ve got to be the next ‘this person’ or ‘that person.’ Every player can’t be the next NBA star. And the psychological breakdown of [that on] a child takes a toll.”

He went on to explain that many kids who go through traumatic experiences do not know how to process their emotions and are often given inadequate resources to deal with them. He wanted to have a way to listen to and connect with other people with similar experiences, which is why he started his non-profit, which hosts other similar panel discussions, and intends to “promote compassion for others one story at a time.”

“Understanding [that a lack of communication] was the case for me and my story and I wish that I had something like this where I could come and listen to people who I could connect with, people who do things that I’m engaged with from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of expertise,” DuBois continued. “And so I created this panel process.”

Varsity Blues hosts panel discussion with Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse

Nurse discusses championship run, managing players

Varsity Blues hosts panel discussion with Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse

On Monday, November 4, the Toronto Varsity Blues Basketball Excellence Program hosted a talk featuring the Toronto Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse which touched on topics including managing underdog teams and working under pressure. The talk was moderated by Sportsnet’s NHL reporter Elliotte Friedman. The event was held at the Toronto Region Board of Trade and touched on topics including winning the championship and staying calm in high pressure situations.

Nurse started the discussion by holding up his NBA championship ring, and later passing it around the room for everyone to hold. “Somebody asked me, ‘When do you wear it?’ I said ‘when I come to things like this.’ We just got them so I think I’m going to give it to people, share it with them. That was the… best experience for me about the whole title… sharing it with everybody from Toronto and Canada.”

Nurse spent his formative coaching years in the British Basketball League (BBL), with his first stop being the Birmingham Bullets. Before Nurse took over, the Bullets, much like the Raptors, had a rather underwhelming history.

He recalled one game where his player grabbed a rebound in a tie game at the end of the fourth quarter, forgot the score, and dribbled out to the half court line to let time expire — much like JR Smith’s infamous mistake in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA finals. “Two stats guys [were] sitting next to me that have been keeping stats for 20 years for the team. One of them looked at me and said ‘typical Birmingham Bullet basketball,’” Nurse recalled.

“This guy motivated me, that I needed to change everybody’s mindset in the whole organization. So I went back and I titled this little letter. I wrote at the top ‘expect to win.’” Nurse’s motivation seemed to work, as the Bullets would go on to win the BBL title in 1996.

Nurse went on to discuss his experience coaching in the NBA Development League, now known as the NBA G League. He said that in his countryside house, just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, he had several large whiteboards where he would draw up plays for late-game situations. “I mean just literally hundreds of scenarios end-of-game. But we sat there and thought of everyone we could think of.”

Friedman asked Nurse if coaching in high-pressure situations like NBA Finals brought him back to his basement just outside of Des Moines. Nurse said, “I don’t know about that, but what I do believe is this: you’re totally there. That’s the one thing you don’t even notice: the 20,000 [fans]… the 800 media, you don’t notice the pressure of the situation. You’re not really thinking about ‘oh my God, this is the NBA Finals.’”

Nurse continued by saying that he wanted his players to mirror his calm. “I wanted to be confident so our guys would be confident… I don’t always pick the best play, I don’t always pick the guy to shoot it, but when we do leave that huddle, we’re going to walk out there together, knowing what we’ll do.”

The summer after the NBA Finals, Nurse met with Phil Jackson, who won 11 NBA Championships as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. When coaching in England, Nurse would watch tapes of Jackson’s Bulls, keeping an eye out for his famous ‘triangle offense.’ He finally got to meet Jackson this August in Montana and recounted a story of driving in Phil Jackson’s truck. “We drive around for like three hours eating cherries and spitting the seeds out the window. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I’m sitting here eating cherries with 11 time NBA Champion, Phil Jackson.’”

Nurse recalled the two best pieces of advice he got from the coaching legend on their last day together. “He said, ‘number one, don’t underestimate the power of the basketball gods… you’ve been hired by your owners to make, at all times, the best decision for the team. And you have to keep that in mind. That’s not going to be easy.’”

The next piece of advice was the most memorable, and one that Friedman included in his weekly 31 Thoughts column. “I want you to imagine you got this sword. He said that one end, the sharp end, you’re going to have to push those guys. You [have] got to prod them. You have to get on their asses. But every now and then I want you to turn around and look at the handle. And I want you to have that symbolize compassion because you have to understand where they come from and what they’re going through,” Nurse recalled.

“And then poof — he disappeared,” Nurse joked.

Opinion: In conversation with U of T Raptors fans

The defending champions look to remain competitive after the loss of two key starters

Opinion: In conversation with  U of T Raptors fans

After winning the NBA Championship this past June, the Raptors are in a unique position to start the 2019–2020 NBA season. Despite being the defending champions, they are still considered underdogs.

ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated all do not list the Raptors as a top-eight team in their preseason power rankings. Analytics website FiveThirtyEight gave them just a two per cent chance of repeating as NBA champions.

These tempered expectations are understandable: very few teams lose two starters — one of them being arguably the best player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard — in the offseason and still remain competitive, much less title contenders.

What is left is a mixture of wily playoff veterans, like Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, alongside young talent like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. The latter will be asked to step into even greater roles with the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Despite these losses, the Raptors can still compete for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. Team President Masai Ujiri will have to decide whether he wants to run it back with the roster he has or liquidate his assets by trading away veterans and betting on the youth.

The precariousness of this position has not been lost on the numerous U of T Raptor fans. However, it is undercut with a sense of optimism that comes from having witnessed history as a Canadian team won the NBA Championship for the first time — a feat that awed even the most casual of Raptors fans.

“I’m a bandwagoner, “ admitted third-year life sciences student Deepak — but that didn’t stop him and other fairweather fans from being drawn into the fervour that swept Toronto. “The energy I felt when the Raptors won was incredible. It felt like the whole city went absolutely nuts… and I think the after-effects of that are still here.”

These good feelings even extend to the departures of Leonard and Green. “It’s heartbreaking,” acknowledged Dillon, a second-year engineering student, “[but] I would have been more resentful if they hadn’t won. I think the mindset now is ‘thank you, you won us a championship. If you want to leave now and do other things, more power to you. You don’t owe us anything.’”

Though interviewed students conceded that the Raptors’ ceiling had been lowered, they also expressed their strong faith in the Raptors front office, with Masai Ujiri being mentioned glowingly.

Thomas, a third-year medical science student, said “Masai is a special kind of genius… The Kawhi trade showed that he was willing to take big risks, [DeMar DeRozan] was loved by everyone and [Ujiri] knew that… but the trade gave us a championship… I have faith he knows what he’s doing.”

This faith is not without the expectation that the Raptors remain competitive. A general consensus among interviewees was that the rebuild should be held off for at least this year, and that the Raptors still have the talent to be a mid-tier playoff team. “We just re-signed [Lowry], and if the young guys take another leap, I don’t see why we can’t win a playoff round,” reasoned Dillon. He and others said that calls to ‘blow it up’ can wait for the offseason, or, as Thomas suggested, “at least until the trade deadline if they’re very bad.”

This season may not come with the expectations of a typical defending champion, but fans still expect the Raptors to be successful, and the afterglow of that magical time in June allows for them to believe in both the present and the future of this organization. 

The Raptors will start their 2019–2020 campaign with a banner raising ceremony at Scotiabank Arena, followed by a matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans on the NBA’s opening day. The game will be followed by a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers — for the fans who are still not over the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, who signed with the Clippers and Lakers, respectively.

UTM hosts Raptors 905 Open Tryout

The Varsity sits down with General Manager Chad Sanders to discuss team’s future, U of T hopefuls

UTM hosts Raptors 905 Open Tryout

Last week, almost 100 basketball players from across North America were given the opportunity of a lifetime: a practice roster spot on the Raptors 905, the Mississauga-based minor league team for the Toronto Raptors. 

On Saturday, September 7, the Raptors’ G League-affiliated team hosted open tryouts at UTM, and participants were given a platform to showcase their skills in front of coaches and staff from within the organization. For a fee of $275 during pre-registration, or a $310 ticket on the day of the event, the dream of playing on a team that has previously featured NBA talents Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell, became more attainable. 

While the annual salary of a G League player is only around $35,000, a roster spot on one of these teams symbolizes a tangible route to the NBA and a career playing basketball on the biggest stage possible. 

In an interview with The Varsity, General Manager of the Raptors 905, Chad Sanders, provided insight on the open tryouts, Canadian basketball, and the relationship between U of T and the 905. 

The Varsity: How has the interest in the Raptors 905 team changed alongside the success of the Raptors in recent years?

Chad Sanders: I think we are definitely seeing interest in our team grow alongside the success of the Raptors. Our organization has worked hard to foster a meaningful connection between the two teams and I think that has been shown with how many players have some time with 905 as part of their development with Toronto. As it relates to our open tryout, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this season drew our largest number of attendees following the championship season that the Raptors had. 

TV: What does the enthusiasm surrounding these tryouts reflect about Canadian basketball?

CS: The one thing I have noticed over the last few years is how basketball has continued to grow  — particularly the growth at the grassroots level. We have a number of camps that we run which are well attended, and even just seeing kids at the public courts, basketball is really surging in popularity and we want to make sure we continue to help that happen. 

TV: How many students or alumni from U of T participated in the tryouts? What was the background of the participating of basketball players?

CS: We had a few players that had either attended U of T or played for the basketball team. The school has been so accommodating to us, whether it be at the downtown or Mississauga campus, it really makes the day run smooth when you have a good venue. 

Players ranged from your recreational men’s league players to professionals, and I think that’s the beauty of the open tryout, it really is for anyone. Some people just come out for the experience of being around basketball people and a professional basketball environment. It’s important that we as a staff and organization provide that experience for everyone and really treat everyone who comes out with the same mentality. 

TV: What were the scouts and coaches looking for? What types of drills and games did players participate in?

CS: I think we are always looking for a few key things: talent, potential, and intangibles. The unique thing about the NBA G League is that rosters essentially reset every season, so you are starting from scratch each year. With that reality, it is important to identify players who can play within the team, but who also have the ability to create for themselves. 

We structured the day so we could have some of the more individual aspects of the game come through in drills and smaller group games and then we organized full games that would put players in a position to show how they could operate within a team. 

TV: How has the relationship between the Raptors organization and U of T changed the campus atmosphere and the opportunities that are available to the U of T community?

CS: We have a great relationship with U of T and UTM. We have used the facilities numerous times throughout the last four years, whether it be for open tryouts, G League showcases, or practices. Last season one of our mentor coaches was Tamara Tatham, who is an assistant from U of T with the women’s team and she was great for our program. We have nothing but good things to say about our experiences with U of T. 

TV: How was the talent compared to past years’?

CS: We are really fortunate to be in an area that has really produced legitimate basketball talent. Lots of great players have come from Toronto and surrounding areas, and the open tryout is another opportunity to expose this talent. This season definitely stayed at the standard we have come to expect from the open tryout process. 

TV: Given that current Raptors players Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell have all spent time in the G League, playing for the 905, what advice would you give a to a Varsity student regarding a career in professional basketball, and the different paths it might take to get there?

CS: I think you hit the nail on the head with the last part; there is no one path to follow. I’ve been fortunate to work internationally, and the sport of basketball has such a global presence — great basketball is being played all over the globe. That being the case, scouts are all over the world searching for talent, and if it is out there, it will be found.

Someone like Pascal — who you mentioned — was first seen at a basketball without borders camp in Africa. If you look at the NBA, even in the last few years. with players like Luka Doncic and Giannis, the game is more global than ever. The other big thing would be to just keep working at it and focus on improving. All the players who you mentioned, Fred, Pascal, Norm, they all have such a strong work ethic and are constantly adding and improving their craft. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In Photos: A Raptors retrospective

From celebration to disarray

In Photos: A Raptors retrospective

As the final buzzer sounded in the Oracle Arena, signalling the first NBA championship of a Canadian team, waves of people flooded the streets of Toronto. Despite the scattered shattered glass and even the police horse excrement, the crowds continued to celebrate the historic night throughout the city. People danced, cheered, and climbed anything that they could just to show their enthusiasm for the Toronto team.

ON THE WAY TO UNION (KING STREET)

UNION STATION (FRONT STREET)


DUNDAS SQUARE (YONGE STREET)

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

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DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

The Parade

The Raptors’ parade seemed to mirror the night of their victory: the streets, scaffolds, signs, bus stops, and monuments were once again covered with people. Under the glaring sun, the crowd grew restless as the parade continued to delay. Families had been waiting since early morning and others camped out the night before. However, the spirit was still strong and Toronto was ready to welcome their team back home.

NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUARE (BAY AND QUEEN)


The celebrations were cut short after multiple shots were fired during the victory speeches. The crowds in the south half of Nathan Phillips Square dissipated and people were in disarray as they struggled to put distance between themselves and the shooters. Lost belongings, mismatched shoes, sprained ankles, and people in shock — the parade was over for those who were stampeded in the back. Almost three hours behind schedule, the crowds at the front continued the celebration as those in the rear tried to recollect their belongings and call their friends and families who they lost in the scramble.

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

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DINA DONG/THE VARSITY

Who will win the NBA’s Eastern Conference?

How the Raptors, Bucks, and Sixers are positioned to leapfrog one another following the trade deadline

Who will win the NBA’s Eastern Conference?

Following the NBA’s trade deadline, the home stretch of the NBA season has arrived. With less than 30 games left in each team’s schedule, the league has officially settled in for the playoff push. While none of the teams in the Western Conference made any moves to truly challenge the Golden State Warriors, teams in the Eastern Conference have answered the bell.

LeBron James’ exodus from the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer has left the Eastern Conference wide open for a new favourite to emerge, and prior to the deadline, three contenders made substantial trades. With these moves, the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors have signalled their intentions to face the Golden State in June.

The Philadelphia 76ers took a large gamble that they’re hoping will pay off. They traded Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, and multiple draft picks to the Los Angeles Clippers for Mike Scott, Boban Marjanović, and Tobias Harris.

Harris is the crown jewel of the trade; he’s a high-scoring forward who the Sixers hope can be their fourth star next to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler. To acquire him, Philly parted with two first-round picks, including an unprotected 2021 from Miami Heat. These picks are a costly fee for Harris — a free agent who may only be a rental if he chooses to sign somewhere else this summer — but the 76ers are determined to show that the years of tanking that led to the selections of Simmons and Embiid were not in vain. By sacrificing future assets in an effort to win now, the Sixers are signaling that The Process is now dead, and that they are ready to compete for a championship.

The Milwaukee Bucks pulled off their own big move, giving up very little to acquire the perfect player to complement their MVP candidate.

Since coach Mike Budenholzer’s arrival this season, the Bucks have roared to the top record in the NBA, buoyed by the performance of superstar Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo — who is jockeying with James Harden for the lead in the MVP race — is a playmaking dunk machine, who thrives when playing with three-point shooters.

On the day of the deadline, the Bucks acquired Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans for Stanley Johnson, Jason Smith, and two second-round picks. Mirotic, a power forward making 37 per cent of his threes this season, is an ideal complement for a player like Antetokounmpo: a sharpshooting big man who can space the floor for Milwaukee’s already potent offense. By giving up two non-rotation players and mediocre draft picks, the East’s frontrunner got significantly better, and the Greek Freak will be gunning for his first NBA championship ring.

Finally, the Toronto Raptors showed that they too were willing to make a major acquisition, trading away multiple rotation pieces for an aging star. Marc Gasol, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time All-Star, was traded to the Raptors by the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a second-round pick. The loss of Valanciunas and Wright will hurt the team’s depth, but a player of Gasol’s calibre is rarely available for such a low price.

Unfortunately, there are troubling reasons for his availability. The Grizzlies have been one of the worst-performing teams in the NBA this year, and the longtime Gasol and point guard Mike Conley tag-team has not been able to replicate the results that propelled the Grizzlies to playoff success in previous years.

Moreover, at 34, Gasol has shown signs of individual decline during his team’s collapse. The hope for Toronto is that the move to a winning team will revitalize his play, allowing him to show off the stellar defense and excellent passing skills that made him a star.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri is taking a big risk here, wagering that this move will put them over the top in the East. If he’s wrong, then this summer could bring some worst-case scenarios: Kawhi Leonard leaving in free agency and Gasol picking up his $25-million player option. But it seems that Masai believes the time for the Raptors to compete is now, and with conference rivals adding valuable pieces, this trade could give Toronto the necessary boost to win the East.

The Eastern Conference playoffs are poised to be a bloodbath. The Raptors, Bucks, and Sixers have all improved, and although the Boston Celtics remained silent at the deadline, they have a formidable roster that could pose a real threat, if they figure out their chemistry issues.

This will be the first Eastern Conference Finals without LeBron in almost a decade. With the East’s top teams armed to the teeth, the conference championship is up for the taking, but it will not be an easy fight.

Why the Raptors deserve to play on Christmas

The NBA annually snubs Toronto on Christmas Day

Why the Raptors deserve to play on Christmas

For your common NBA basketball fan, enjoying a lineup of spectacular basketball is a beloved Christmas Day tradition.

Christmas basketball games regularly showcase the best teams in the league, highlighting the association’s biggest superstars and some key rivalries. Although the Toronto Raptors have made the playoffs for five straight seasons, made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, and further raised their profile by acquiring a bona fide superstar in Kawhi Leonard, they will still be getting coal for Christmas this year.

The NBA’s decision to overlook the Raptors yet again is particularly frustrating given the stellar performance of Toronto’s team — currently on top of the Eastern Conference — and the actual lineup of contenders for December 25. The New York Knicks, currently sitting near the bottom of the East, will be playing for the umpteenth time on Christmas, almost exclusively due to tradition.

Another convention is to schedule a rematch of the finals from the same year. As with the last three years, that would mean a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. But of course, LeBron James doesn’t play in Cleveland anymore, which is why this year’s Christmas Day lineup will feature a game between Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The only franchises remaining without a Chritmas Day game are the Charlotte Hornets and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Raptors were gifted with one game, way back in 2001.

Not to be forgotten, Christmas is a very personal and special day for a lot of players, coaches, and their families. Players acknowledge that December 25 games are a sacrifice, but also an honour and a privilege. Consider LeBron; after this year, he will have played in 13 Christmas Day games in his 16-year career. Kyle Lowry, on the other hand, never has.

On the topic, Lowry told the media, “I’ve always in my life wanted to play a Christmas game… It’s never happened, but I’ve always had the opportunity to always be with my family on Christmas. It’s a blessing to be able to not play, but at the same you always want that one time you play on Christmas… You get the special shoes. The Christmas jerseys. That’s one I want to frame one day. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to do it.”

There are five games on Christmas; that means that 10 teams play. If the NBA reasons that out of 30 teams in the league, the Raptors don’t qualify as being in the top 10, then they’re the ones on the naughty list this year.

Hopefully, a new generation of Raptors fans will get to see their team play on Christmas one day.