The Toronto Raptors’ victory parade, celebrating the team’s championship win against the Golden State Warriors, drew a flood of people that has brought Toronto to a screeching halt. CTV News reports that city officials have shut down numerous subway stations and closed down access to Nathan Phillips Square — where the team is planned to arrive for a rally following the parade route.
From the get-go, the parade faced trouble when it began an hour behind schedule. The setback was due to an excess of people crowding the Princes’ Gate at Exhibition Stadium, blocking in the buses carrying the players. Although there are no official estimates of the size of the parade as of yet, it was predicted that as many as two million people would join the historic celebration.
“I heard we getting 2million got the parade,” point guard Kyle Lowry — and longest-serving Raptor — tweeted on Monday. “Grandma I know you front row already!!”
The Toronto Raptors are riding on five open-air double-decker buses as they smoke cigars, spray the crowds with champagne, and wave the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy to eager fans that swarm the streets, balconies, off-ramps, and rooftops. Overview views even captured construction workers filling several stories of scaffolding.
Team president Masai Ujiri, who is credited for putting the championship-winning team together, spoke from atop a convertible as he traversed the parade route with his family.
“This is awesome. It’s unbelievable to see so many people,” he said.
“We said we’d win in Toronto. We’ve won in Toronto and we will continue to win in Toronto.”
Toronto's downtown is now so packed with people for the Raptors NBA Championship victory parade and rally that the TTC has closed Queen, Osgoode, Dundas subway stations 'due to overcrowding at street level.' (Photo submitted by Melissa Armstrong.) pic.twitter.com/ihuN5djIAu— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) June 17, 2019
Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse — who is set to coach Canada at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, per Sportsnet — was mobbed by fans Monday morning and described the excitement igniting the city.
“I stopped at one place on the way home last night and the whole place went crazy when I walked in the door,” he said of his trip home on Saturday. “It’s awesome, it’s exciting, the people waiting at the airport last night. I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like tomorrow.”
Nurse said he believes the there is a “specialness” about the win “because it’s the first one, the way that Canadians went about this and how much they supported the team.”
But the crowds are especially thankful to NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who will be a free agent as of June 30. For now, it’s still unclear if Leonard will re-sign with Toronto, although many Raptors fans have their fingers crossed that the star forward will remain on 2019’s championship team.