I am a die-hard Raptor fan. I have been since 2002 - the first year that I ever attentively watched NBA basketball.
The only reason that I did when I did was because it was the first year that it didn't interfere with school. High school and elementary school terms don't end until June, so I always missed NBA Playoffs. May 2002 marked the end of my first year of university. I didn't have any summer courses so I was free after my last exam. (I still distinctly remember the exams I had to write at the end of that term. One was a philosophy course on Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and I wrote it in Varsity Stadium. The others were for PHY140Y1Y, MAT157Y1Y and MAT240H1S.)
That year, I got all caught up in the Raptors' greatest win streak. It was led by Antonio Davis. This drive to the playoffs changed my life forever. We had lost Carter to a knee injury just prior to the All-Star break. We went into that break well over 500, and came back to lose 12 straight games. It was looking hopeless until Davis, as our Co-Captain, led the team to win 12 of the next 14, putting us in 7th place in the East going into playoffs against Jerry Stackhouse and the Pistons.
We were to face Ben and Jerry without Carter. We did a decent job. I still remember the dying seconds of the final game. Down by 3 with 10 seconds left on the clock, Chris Childs hurriedly dribbled the ball up the court and just as he crossed the timeline, blind to the wide-open better 3-point shooter in Dell Curry, he threw up a wild half-court shot that had no chance of making it ... so it wasn't surprising when it didn't make it. We lost our possession. Detroit had the ball. The clock ran out. It was over. Raptors lose. Raptors lose. Raptors lose.
There were a lot of reasons why I fell in love with them when I did besides the timing. I loved the roster. The hearts of Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams, MoPete (Morris Peterson), and JYD (Jerome Williams) won me over. JYD cheered like a fan from the bench. Alvin put it all on the floor every night and was solid. I'm happy knowing that these two are back and part of the organization.
The subsequent years saw some of the worst NBA play, team losses due to injury, win records and trades, but there was always effort. Where they lacked in talent, they made up in character. Some say that moral wins don't count, but I say they do. I need to. I've always felt as though Raptors' ball was an analogy for my life.