Basketball coaches love to talk about how it takes every guy on the roster to help the team win. It’s a cliché, of course, designed to keep everyone engaged and morale adequately boosted. But there’s something to be said for that, especially for the guys who never see the court. It’s the camaraderie, the vocal support from the sidelines, the way they push the other guys in practice, and their readiness to step up when the moment calls for it that earns them their share of the heartache or triumph.
It’s why, at the end of a grueling season, if your team is fortunate enough to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy, everybody deserves to celebrate. When the Toronto Raptors toppled the Warriors in Game 6 at Oracle Arena to win the first championship in franchise history, they did it with a team filled with veterans who, though most of them had never made it this far, had fought and scratched their entire careers to finally get a chance at basketball immortality.
That’s why, instead of focusing on how he didn’t see the floor all that much once Nick Nurse tightened his rotation, we should all be happy for a guy like Jeremy Lin, whose career came full circle on Thursday night as he became an NBA champion against the team that gave up on him at the outset of his career.
As the first Asian-American to ever win a title, the global impact will be immeasurable, only adding to the legacy he’s already established, from his magical Linsanity run to the more modest journeyman’s career he’s settled into the past few years, to earning his first ring with Toronto.
You don’t have to look too hard to at this Raptors roster to find other guys to be happy for. Who, for instance, has earned a championship more than Marc Gasol, a guy who, purely because of loyalty, toiled away the best years of his career on a very-good-but-not-great Grizzlies team?
Unlike Lin, Gasol was a crucial member of Toronto’s rotation in the postseason. He may have struggled in these Finals, but it’s not a stretch to say the Raptors never would’ve made it to this point without him. Gasol was instrumental in slowing down both Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo to get out of the East, and his court vision, long-range acumen, and all-around basketball savvy gave the Raptors a dimension they’d never had before.