Damon Stoudamire reflects on Raptors amazing journey to NBA Finals

The Raptors are in uncharted territories for the franchise. As every fan knows the Raptors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Who better to have a conversation with about the growth of the team than the Raptors first draft pick in 1995 and team first Rookie of the Year winner Damon Stoudamire?You will always be part of the Raptors history as their first Rookie of the Year and first draft pick back in 1995. What’s it like to watch the team you were with on day one come so far?Damon Stoudamire (DS): It’s exciting! It’s exciting to watch from the standpoint as basketball fan but it’s also just so exciting to play for that franchise and being connected with them as the first draft pick. I don’t think at times we over here in the States really understand what it means to Toronto as a city to have success in basketball. It really has come full circle.It’s been almost 25 years since you started with the team. A lot has changed including where they play. How have you seen the franchise grow especially with the fandom?DS: It’s change a lot! I think I was able to help open eyes and give awareness to basketball and bring people to it. I think Vince Carter took it to another level but once he left it kind of died of a little. But, I think as the team went on with DeRozan and Kyle and those guys they did a good job of growing it. But I think the addition of Kawhi has taken them to a whole other level. I think he has helped them become a national brand.Do you think the fact the Raptors have made that final hurdle and are now in the NBA Finals that it’s going to make Toronto a more attractive destinations for players to come here? I know there has been concerns over taxes when players come here.DS: To me when you get talking about the money guys get paid now it’s just really an excuse of them not wanting to come. At the end of the day you are in a tax bracket of your own anyways, you are talking about nickels on the dollar of what people would miss out on. I think Toronto as a city is one of the best sports cities in the world and I think at this junction with the momentum that the team has moving forward it should be attractive to them.We are seeing on the sidelines right now Drake giving massages and giving high fives, do you remember someone doing this back in the Sky Dome days?DS: {Laughs} I don’t remember getting no messages on the sidelines! For the most part though with the acceptation of a few people, when I watch the games on TV the people sitting courtside for the most part are the same people sitting courtside when I was first there. It looks like the Day 1’s have never given up.Now the big question on everyone’s minds, how do the Raptors stack up against the defending Champions the Golden State Warriors?DS: The Warriors have won the last three Championships so let’s be honest the Raptors have to come out and play the best basketball to win let’s not sugar-coat it. To me the Raptors have some advantages right out the gate with Kawhi Leonard but I would love to see Marc Gasol have some good games because he has an advantage at centre. Then you have Steph Curry. Steph Curry is going to be Steph Curry so that is always going to be an issue. It is going to take a concerted effort by everyone of the Raptors that steps foot on the court to beat them, but they have the team to do it. BROWSE Damon Stoudamire | nba finals | raptors | sports

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