Raptors fever has hit Toronto. Shouts of “We the North” and “Go, Raptors, go" echo through the streets on game nights, and the team’s signature ball-and-claw logo is everywhere – on storefronts, flags and T-shirts. It’s the first time the Raptors have played in the NBA finals, and the numbers tell a story of a city – and a country – enamoured of basketball.
The price of a courtside ticket for Game 2 at ticketmaster.ca as of Friday afternoon. Tickets for Game 1 were available at the box office for $1,100 just before game time Thursday. Scalpers outside Scotiabank Arena were selling them for $1,200.
The number of people who had the Raptors logo permanently tattooed on their bodies at Freedom Ink, a tattoo parlour in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood that offered them free all week. Diehard fans got to pick from a selection of six Raptors-themed images. Most chose to get them on their arms or legs, but at least one particularly fervent fan had the ball-and-claw logo tattooed on his face.
The number of LED light fixtures on the CN Tower that turn bright red at the top of every hour on game nights to support the team. The tower also projected the "We the North” slogan on its side Thursday.
The number of establishments offering Raptors star Kawhi Leonard free food and merchandise in Toronto. The movement is called “Ka’wine and dine." It was started by Raptors Republic, a fan site, as a way to tempt the star into re-signing with Toronto when his contract expires. Restaurants, tattoo parlours, coffee shops and even a school cafeteria are displaying the “Ka’wine and dine” sticker in their windows. Zarar Siddiqi, the founder of Raptors Republic, said the sticker has been downloaded thousands of times. “Kawhi can afford his own food. It’s not about buying him a free lunch, we just want to show him our appreciation," he said.
The price of an authentic Raptors jersey on nbastore.ca. Raptors gear sales are up 60 per cent over last year, according to parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). More than 20,000 playoff specific items have been sold since the start of the postseason. Jerseys are the most popular, with Mr. Leonard’s leading the way, followed by Kyle Lowry’s.
The time Arham Jamshaid started lining up on Thursday to get into Jurassic Park, the viewing area outside Scotiabank Arena. Mr. Jamshaid left his home in Markham at 5 a.m. so he could be at the front of the line. He brought a folding camping chair and some snacks. More than 10,000 people watched Game 1 on giant screens there that night.
The number of people assembled in Mississauga’s Celebration Square – a.k.a. “Jurassic Park West” – for a free public viewing of Game 1, according to an estimate by Peel Regional Police. Mississauga City Hall raised the Raptors flag before the start of the game. There were 37 local “Jurassic Parks” across Ontario and one in Halifax.
The number of beers ordered at the Ballroom, a downtown sports bar and bowling complex, during the game. Hungry fans also ordered more than 170 pounds of wings and more than 50 orders of nachos. The bar is expecting a 500-to-600-per-cent boost in sales over a typical Sunday for Game 2, according to Barry Taylor, director of operations.
The number of people who tuned in to Sportsnet to watch the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA finals, breaking the record for a Canadian NBA audience. The Regular-season audiences have also increased 44 per cent over last year, according to Sportsnet.
The number of hours it took Toronto artists Javid Jah and Moises Frank to paint a mural depicting Kawhi Leonard looking stoic, crowned as “King of the North.” The mural is more than six metres tall and is located on Pembroke Street in the Regent Park neighbourhood. Mr. Jah said he and Mr. Frank are planning other Raptors-themed murals around the city.
The number of TTC buses expected to be on standby on Sunday for Game 2. In addition to the four routes that were diverted Thursday, the 320 Yonge, 501 Queen and 505 Dundas will have route changes Sunday. Extra TTC staff will be present in and around Union Station to help with crowds. GO Transit has also rebranded its “Quiet Zone” on the upper levels of rush-hour trains to the “Kawhi-it Zone." The interiors of buses across the city are adorned with “We the North” signs.
The number of Raptors-themed bagels sold at What A Bagel franchises across the Greater Toronto Area Thursday. The bagels are deep red, black and white. “They were flying off the shelves,” said Danny Farbman, a franchiser and diehard Raptors fan. Bagels aren’t the only Raptors-themed food being sold across the city, which is also reporting sightings of red and black doughnuts, cookies and ice cream.
The number of people playing intercity basketball across Ontario. The Raptors’ success is proving to be a boon for the sport. Shane James, the founder of the Canadian Youth Basketball League, said he’s expecting the number of registrations in summer basketball camps to spike. His organization has increased from 27 teams to 320 over six years, and he attributes part of that growth to the Raptors. “People are watching the Raptors, and kids are [saying]: ‘Mommy, Daddy, I want to play basketball.'”