Be the North: The Toronto Raptors who have embraced life in Canada

They're just like us? The super-tall, super-skilled millionaire members of the Toronto Raptors?

From bagged milk to bad weather, these NBA players have been able to adjust to life in Toronto

A mural of Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard painted on the side a brick building in Toronto, on May 27, 2019. (Doug Ives/Canadian Press)

They're just like us? The super-tall, super-skilled, millionaire members of the Toronto Raptors?

In some ways, yes. Given that they are living in the same country as us, they have to, in some ways, be the North, too.

Because when they're not on the basketball court, they're living their day-to-day lives in Canada.

'Cold-ass weather' and bagged milk

They're putting up with the "cold-ass weather," as one Raptor memorably put it, trying to make their way to games in a crowded city and learning to live with the way milk is packaged here. 

That would be current Raptor Danny Green, by the way, who (jokingly?) suggested a few months ago that bagged milk, ubiquitous in Ontario, is "something that needs to change."

For real?

More recently, there have been claims on social media that Kawhi Leonard was spotted signing up for a credit card at a well-known Canadian department store chain.

Whether it's true or not, the mind-boggling idea that the buzzer-beating Raptors superstar could be doing his own shopping got us thinking about all the Toronto ballers who have embraced life in the 416.

Loving the 'beautiful' winter

Serge Ibaka, foreground, has seemingly embraced life in Toronto, even in the dead of winter. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Serge Ibaka, now in his third season as a Toronto Raptor, has clearly adapted to life in the city — no matter what the weather is like.

In January, he posted a video of himself walking in a Toronto snowstorm, in full winter wear, as snow hit him in the face.

"Beautiful, baby! Beautiful," Ibaka told viewers.

He's also found his favourite spots to hang out in the city. They include Rol San — a Spadina Avenue dim sum restaurant where he was spotted after the Raptors won their Eastern Conference Final.

Subway riders, like the rest of us

First, Dwane Casey was forced to ride the subway to a playoff game. Then he had to live through the team's heartbreaking Game 7 loss to Brooklyn — as did Drake, pictured with him. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Just like the rest of Torontonians, the Raptors find themselves having to get to work on time — and sometimes that has involved using public transit.

There was the time five years ago, for example, when former coach Dwane Casey rode the subway to a playoff game.

Why? Because he'd been unable to drive in as a result of road closures for a marathon in downtown Toronto.

The future NBA Coach of the Year even put in an impromptu plug for the Toronto Transit Commission service he'd used as an emergency travel tool.

"It's great," Casey said. "I recommend it to everybody — just not on Game 7."

It ended up being a rough day overall, though — because, you know, the loss and everything.

The Red Rocket himself

Matt Bonner, right, defends against Ron Artest during a January 2006 NBA game in Toronto. (Aaron Harris/Canadian Press)

But Casey isn't the only Raptor known to have used the TTC to get to work.

Matt Bonner was a well-known subway rider himself, and his nickname, the Red Rocket, was in part inspired by this.

The well-liked six-foot-ten centre/forward, who played two seasons in Toronto, also married a Canadian he met while with the Raptors.

When he retired from the game, Bonner gave a shout-out to "the T-dot, the Hammer [and] everywhere else in Canada" in a humorous video he posted online.

'I am Toronto'

DeMar DeRozan, foreground, was traded to San Antonio in a blockbuster that brought Leonard, pictured behind him, to Toronto. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Fan favourite DeMar DeRozan was another Raptor who seemed to be on board with living life in The Six.

When he signed a contract extension with the team, the all-star shooting guard famously declared: "I am Toronto."

"Outside of where I'm from, I represent this city harder than anybody," he added at the time of his re-signing. "I've got so many goals I want to accomplish still, I just can't wait to put that jersey back on and keep going."

Unfortunately for DeRozan and for Raptors fans, he didn't get to stay forever. He was shuffled to San Antonio in a surprise blockbuster trade that brought the aforementioned Leonard to Toronto last year.

The trade hit fans hard, though they gave DeRozan a standing ovation when he returned to the city in a Spurs jersey last February.

The film fan

Patrick Patterson, seen here in game against Milwaukee on April 5, 2014, was a regular attendee of the Toronto International Film Festival. (Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press)

Another Raptor who seemed to make the most of his time in T.O. was Patrick Patterson, a forward who was also a major film buff.

During his four seasons with the Raptors, Patterson was a regular attendee of the city's annual Toronto International Film Festival.

He even provided some film reviews for CBC's Our Toronto, and he made his Oscar picks on the show on a previous occasion.

Patrick Patterson, our special #TIFF15 correspondent

7 years ago
Duration 6:22
TIFF attracts people of all ages, and all different backgrounds. Including - NBA players. Meet Patrick Patterson, our special TIFF 2015 correspondent.

"I have a lot of alarms on my phone," he told Our Toronto back in 2015, when the press-pass-carrying Raptor was trying to stay on track to see 17 films over a nine-day stretch.

"Every single time a movie is coming up, it's on my calendar, my phone will probably go off an hour before," he said.

'My Toronto candy'

'My Toronto candy'

12 years ago
Duration 0:25
Reggie Evans talks to the CBC's Mark Kelley about candy.

In 2010, the CBC's Mark Kelley sat down with Reggie Evans to talk about his love of candy.

Why? Because the power forward was, in Kelley's words, "a candy connoisseur."

Kelley brought Evans some Maynard's candies — a brand the Raptor, then in his second season with the team, had become acquainted with in Toronto.

"This is a good candy, right here in Toronto," said Evans, who had also dubbed it "my Toronto candy."

Building a bond with a local candy brand is surely one sign you are acclimatizing to your new town.

Befriending Canadians

Dell Curry is seen chasing the ball over Allen Iverson during a second-round NBA playoff game in Philadelphia on May 9, 2001. (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Dell Curry spent 16 years playing in the NBA, but he finished out his career with three seasons in Toronto.

(It was Curry, in fact, who got the ball to Vince Carter in the final two seconds of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. But as Raptors fans all know, that shot didn't land.)

Brothers and future NBA stars Steph Curry (top row, second from the right) and Seth Curry (bottom row, third from right), are seen with their fellow Queensway Christian College basketball teammates in 2001. They played on the team at a time when their father, Dell, was a member of the Toronto Raptors. (Submitted by James Lackey)

While their dad was playing for the Raptors, Curry's three children spent some time attending Queensway Christian College in Etobicoke.

His sons, Stephen (a.k.a. Steph) and Seth, both played basketball while at the school.

Both are now in the NBA — and Steph Curry, who plays for the Golden State Warriors, has been bringing it to the Raptors in the NBA Finals.

After Dell Curry retired, the family moved back to the United States. But according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Curry and his family made long-lasting friendships with people living on this side of the border.

The superstar who stayed (for a while)

In August 2001, superstar Vince Carter announced that he'd decided to stick with the Raptors and would sign a contract extension.

Some people thought he would be tempted to seek a big paycheque in another market, but Carter said there was more to being in the game than money.

Vince Carter embraces the Raptors' mascot during a December 2017 game in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

"I can make millions of dollars somewhere else but not be happy," he said.

"That's what it's all about, is being happy, because the money's going to be there."

Three years later, the honeymoon was over, though, as Carter said he wanted to be moved out of Toronto.

Vince Carter decides to stay

21 years ago
Duration 0:52
In 2001, Vince Carter re-signed with the Toronto Raptors.

Rob Babcock, then the team's general manager, said Carter wouldn't be traded — but that's exactly what happened that December.

When Carter came back to town the following spring, he got booed by Raptors fans in the stands.

But the Toronto fans have, over time, gotten over the loss and have been more welcoming to him.


  • This story initially misstated Matt Bonner's position as guard. He was a centre/forward.
    May 21, 2019 11:35 AM ET


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