Raptors fans have had plenty to boo in their short franchise history, but don’t misunderstand it as fickle fans who turn on a player as soon as he’s out of town. More often than not, the player is the one who turns on Toronto and has to be shipped out because of personal, rather than professional issues. Hedo Turkoglu is Raps fans’ newest favourite to boo, his personal conduct while with the team led to the ire of fans. He didn’t always play as hard as he could have (something Raps fans still have nightmares about after the VC drama), and once missed a game with a supposed ‘stomach ailment,’ only to be spotted clubbing later that night. It’s one thing to have players underperforming on the court, when they are paid millions to give 110% effort, but when the issue is off the court, the Raptors have time and again fallen victim to players who don’t appreciate Toronto and love us back.
Just step back and imagine if Toronto Raptors team management only had to trade players when they weren’t performing well athletically or weren’t developing physically, and we were looking for an on-court upgrade. It’s unfair to management when players put their personal issues before the good of the team, and have to be dealt. This often leads to lopsided trades where the Raptors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Because players have already worn out their welcome before they leave town, trades of our franchise leaders and all-stars amount to personality dumping. Other GMs know the Raps have tipped their hand and can extort lopsided trades. Our trading chip is gone when the player needs to leave anyways, and Toronto ends up with deals like Vince Carter for Eric/ Aaron Williams and a no-show Alonzo Mourning (who fans booed when he came to Toronto), or Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh leaving for nothing in return.
McGrady is still booed at the ACC over a decade after he left for “greener” pastures via free agency to Orlando. T-Mac never made his intentions clear to Toronto and his decision to leave was somewhat unexpected. Bosh bolted this past summer for Miami after deceiving Raptors management into thinking they had a chance of re-signing the 5-time all-star and franchise leader in points, rebounds and blocks. They built the team around him and tried to accommodate him, but ultimately he wore out his welcome and even GM Brian Colangelo agreed Bosh “checked out” late in the season. T-Mac left to be alone, rather than share the spotlight with all-star cousin Vince, while Bosh left to join forces with the NBA’s elite in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. It seems no matter what Toronto offers, players pursue happiness elsewhere.
These “betrayls” have put the Raptors into difficult positions many times throughout franchise history and Toronto fans only want a player that they can love and will love them in return. Someone who can be a vocal leader and embrace Toronto as their own. When fans boo Chris Bosh at the Heat game, they also boo LeBron for his similar treatment to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were left in the dust when he bolted to South Beach this past summer (we feel your pain Cleveland). Yet, when Dwyane Wade is announced, he receives a chorus of applause. Raptors fans are neither misinformed, fickle, nor angry for no reason, we simply know what we do and do not value in a player, and will be vocal in our displeasure. This makes Raptors fans the best kind of fans, the loyal ones who will shout you down for your misdeeds against the city and the franchise.
We take it personally. Toronto is ready to reward players who will champion our franchise with the emotional resolve we’ve been bottling up for years. Raps fans will never forget the hard times, and that it why we boo. We will never forget what players have done and said about this city after all it did for them. The following Friday when ‘Air Canada’ and ‘Kid Canada’ come to town with the Phoenix Suns, fans realize much has changed since those nicknames were relevant, but will not have forgotten how to hate and how to reward players for their values. Take it as a sign of loyal fans standing up for a franchise we believe in. Someday we’ll have something to celebrate together, and no reason to boo.
*this story will be appearing sometime soon on NorthPoleHoops, keep a watch for it there