Thousands of fans poured into the streets and erupted into an uncontrolled mass of joy after the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship late Thursday.
“Look at this. It’s the spirit of Toronto coming together. Look what happened here,” said Dennis Roman, as he gestured around at the people flooding the intersection of Yonge and Dundas.
There, bedlam broke out as people clogged the intersection and the nearby streets following the Game 6 win. The crowd consisted of fans young and old, all united under one team.
“This win means everything," said Tim Sampson as he popped a bottle of champagne. “More people, more diversity, that’s why basketball is so popular. Look at all of these different faces. All of these different cultures.”
Mario Yerra said he had no words to describe how he was feeling, explaining that he has been a Raptors fan since he moved to Canada from India in 2008.
Hours after the win, people were still jumping up and down, shouting, smiling and grabbing each other. Red smoke wafted in the sky, as revelers climbed onto to bus shelters to dance atop of them. Fireworks and firecrackers were set off nearby.
Around 1 a.m., a young man sat atop a lamppost, six metres above the crowd, waving a “We The North” flag, soon trading it for a Canadian flag. The crowd burst into their loudest roar when he began waving the two flags at once.
“This puts us on the map as a sports country, as a basketball city. All eyes are on Canada. All eyes are on Toronto,” said Jonah De Leon.
As the celebration started, a few dozen police officers lined the glass storefronts at Yonge and Dundas. Prior to the win, Toronto police brought in some of their events-support buses to close down the major intersection during the fourth quarter, in anticipation of the celebrations. By 12:30 a.m. a group of fans had climbed on top of the bus to party.
There were signs of overzealous partying. One of the large police buses used to block off a part of Yonge Street near Queen Street had damaged windows. Just before 3 a.m., police ran toward the bus and emptied it of the boisterous fans, placing one of them in handcuffs.
Many drivers were stranded on the street as people swarmed around them. One rowdy reveler jumped on a taxi cab near King and Simcoe streets and ended up smashing the windshield. Fans booed at the act and gave the driver some of their cash.
A little further south on York Street, two police cars were damaged, with cracked windshields, dented hoods and smashed out back windows.
The TTC had to detour several of its downtown bus and streetcar routes as multiple streets were blocked by the celebrations. Subways were bypassing Dundas Station due to overcrowding as fans cheered and shouted in its packed cars.
Meanwhile, at Front and York – close by to Jurassic Park, outside Scotiabank Arena – fans were climbing whatever they could find: cement barriers, traffic lights and on top of a bar, before some of them stripped off their shirts and shoes and banged on nearby signs. Others danced to impromptu drumming.
“We’re not sleeping tonight!" said comedian Jasmeet Raina, who added that his mom video-called him from overseas after the game.
“This win is for every person that has grown up with every single background. This is the most pure definition of unity.”
Earlier in the night, fans braved downpours as they waited in line to gain access to Jurassic Park. Around 4 p.m. a thunderstorm rolled through the downtown core, drenching the die-hard supporters.
“It is beyond comprehension that people could be down here, huddled under these makeshift tents, for hours on end, more than a day, overnight,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory earlier in the day. “It’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s been such a terrible spring, but they’ve been here week after week, day after day, and they’re the greatest fans in sports.”
After lightning was spotted, officials temporarily closed down Jurassic Park, giving patient fans a wristband to save their spots. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment – owners of Scotiabank Arena – debated moving people inside to the stadium but decided around 6 p.m. to reopen the outdoor viewing area.
The rain stayed away from the city during the game, allowing fans to dry off as they watched the Raptors and Golden State Warriors trade shots in a closely fought match.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Sarah Fedder in the minutes after the game ended. She had been watching it with her boyfriend, who is from Australia and had been cheering for the Warriors. “To see the whole city hyped up is really cool.”
With reports from Molly Hayes and The Canadian Press