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Two million Canadians cheer NBA's Raptors


June 17, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau greets fans at a Toronto Raptors rally at Nathan Phillips Square. Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among two million fans cheering the Toronto Raptors as the basketball team paraded through the city to celebrate its first NBA championship, a win that has united Canada.

Five double-decker buses carrying the Raptors players, their families and musician Drake moved at a crawl due to the crowds, as players like Kawhi Leonard, who was named the most valuable player of NBA Finals, sprayed champagne on the fans.

The convoy was expected arrive at Nathan Phillips Square, which leads to Toronto's city hall just after noon, but the massive crowd has delayed the programme. Trudeau joined the celebrations at a stage in the square.

Canadians from coast to coast and all the way up to the Arctic have been celebrating since the Toronto Raptors captured their first National Basketball Association championship in a country that is traditionally known as the home of ice hockey.

The Raptors clinched the best-of-seven series in Oakland, California last Thursday in six games by beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110, sealing a nationwide love affair with basketball.

The Raptors victory is the first major professional sports championship for a Canada-based team since Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. Toronto has been waiting for its beloved Maple Leafs to win the NHL championship since its last Stanley Cup victory in 1967.

"It's the culmination of playing for 24 years. We've been waiting a long time for this," said Raptors fan Chris Rogers.

Rogers said his workplace was fully in support of him being out of the office as they believed the parade was important.

Approximately two million fans stood by to celebrate and catch a glimpse of the winners, according to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors.

The Snowbirds, an aerobatic flight demonstration team of the Royal Canadian Air Forces, soared over the skies of Toronto to join the festivities.

Toronto Mayor John Tory proclaimed June 17, 2019, as "We The North" day to mark the occasion, borrowing the slogan used by the Raptors.

"This championship is the culmination of years of patience, support, devotion and belief. Toronto has proven that it is a basketball city and that the game thrives in The North," Tory said in a statement.

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