Toronto honors Raptors with parade after winning first NBA championship

June 17 (UPI) — The Toronto Raptors returned to Canada for a victory parade Monday to celebrate their first NBA championship in franchise history.

Toronto held off the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Raptors clinched the team’s first-ever title with a 114-110 victory Thursday in Game 6 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and teammates rode floats with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in hand and celebrated with fans. Leonard had 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in the sixth game of the series.

Raptors global ambassador and Canadian rap artist Drake was among the celebrities at the parade, celebrating the team’s championship with about 1.5 million fans jammed on the streets of downtown Toronto. The rapper called the event one of the most important shows of his life, and urged fans at the ceremony to hug a stranger.

The parade was behind schedule by about two hours after the buses carrying the Raptors were delayed by the large number of fans in attendance. The crowd sang Canada’s national anthem, which was followed by a flyover from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds, as fans continued to wait for the team.

The Raptors reached Nathan Phillips Square and the championship ceremony started about 30 minutes later. The event was delayed again after Toronto police confirmed there was a shooting near the back of the square.

According to police, two victims were found with serious, but non life-threatening injuries. Two people were in custody and two firearms had been recovered.

The ceremony resumed with members of the Raptors being introduced one by one on a stage. Leonard was brought out last and was greeted with “MVP” chants. Raptors players and coaches, including Nick Nurse, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, each gave speeches as the crowd roared.

“Thank you, enjoy this moment and have fun with this,” Leonard said, who ended his short speech by mocking his infamous laugh from training camp last year.

The Raptors live-streamed the parade on the team’s mobile app. NBA TV also aired a TSN simulcast of the parade. NBA TV will re-air the parade Monday night.

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