#WeTheOther: Happy to be here? No, we’re thrilled.

The Toronto Raptors are in the conference finals for the first time in the club’s 21-year existence. They should be the ultimate underdogs, but somehow that’s not the overarching narrative.

Their run hasn’t been praised as an accomplishment. No, the overwhelming talking point with the Raptors’ clumsy playoff run has been negativity. They were lucky to survive the first round with their stars struggling. They would have lost to Miami if it weren’t for injuries.

And now that the Raptors are in the conference finals (again, for the first time in franchise history), the negativity intensifies. The Raptors’ inclusion in the final four is being treated with a sneering dismissal.

This is a snapshot of how Toronto’s run is being covered in the U.S.

The message is loud and clear: The Raptors shouldn’t be here. They shouldn’t even bother.

Toronto is a pit stop for LeBron James before he heads to a sixth-straight Finals. What insightful analysis — did you know LeBron is really good? — we really needed someone to remind us. Barring a miracle (or a catastrophe, depending on which side of the 49th parallel you stand), the Raptors’ season is coming to an end. Let’s just look past them and focus on the Finals.

That’s one way to look at it.

The other way: This has been the best season in team history for a tortured franchise. And for most Raptors fans, we’re over the moon about being in the Eastern Conference finals.

Maybe the Raptors don’t have a transcendent talent like Vince Carter, but this is the best team in franchise history. It’s been a miraculous season, a smash hit, a year where they hit all their goals.

  • They pressed the Cavaliers for tops in the East until the last week of the season.
  • They had the All-Star Game in Toronto and two hometown representatives.
  • They were the only team in the East to hold a winning record against every other playoff team in the conference.
  • They had rousing victories against the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Cavaliers, Hawks — every team worth noting except the Warriors, the Raptors beat them at least once.

We want to celebrate our team. We know we’re about to lose, so there’s only a week left, but we want to cherish every last moment. It doesn’t matter that this is the end. This season has already been a rousing success.

Now we’re playing with house money.

Coming into the season, did anyone expect the Raptors to get this far? Anyone?

National writers have been writing off the Raptors since preseason. Look at the SB Nation predictions panel that featured seven respected NBA analysts: Not one of them had the Raptors finishing higher than 5th in the East standings. Two of them even had the Raptors missing the playoffs.

Well here’s what actually happened this season:

  • 56 wins — one behind the Cavaliers, one more than the Thunder, fourth-most in the league, broke the previous franchise record by seven.
  • 2 playoff series wins — before this year, the Raptors had just one series victory in franchise history and that was a five-game series 15 years ago.

And maybe you want to attach a caveat to those benchmarks. That’s totally fine. The Raptors needed 14 games to get past the Pacers and Heat. Their offense has looked like shit. They don’t play an attractive style of basketball. Their stars, up until the last three games, have underperformed.

That’s all fair. You won’t find a single Raptors fan who disputes any of that. This team warrants a ton of criticism. And with how they’ve performed, there’s no reason to believe that they’ll even steal a single game from the undefeated Cavaliers.

All I ask for is a little respect. Because these Raptors have earned it. Not respect in the way that they’re title contenders or anything — we’re definitely the “Other” to the three title contenders left standing—but how about a little respect for the Raptors being that “Other” when all the others failed?

Because if we’re being completely honest, no national media member had the Raptors going this far in the first place. So for them to turn around and sneer, for them to shit on how they don’t deserve to be here — it just reminds me of how the Raptors have proven everybody wrong.

(Myself included; I had them winning 47 games and 1 round)

Fellow Raptors fans I implore you to not let the hate get to you. Don’t let anybody harsh your mellow. Shut all that out and focus on reveling in the moment.

Crawl, walk, run. We’re not ready to win the championship. We know that. But for fuck sakes all this team ever did was crawl. We scraped our knees for years watching saps like Rafer Alston and Alan Anderson and why were there three fucking “Williams” on the team? We endured Rob Babcock’s bumbling management, watched every star we ever had leave the city, and we handed the fucking keys to Andrea Bargnani.

When you look out Jurassic Park, you’ll find Jamario Moon jerseys. You’ll see T.J. Ford. You’ll see Jorge Garbajosa. You’ll see Amir Johnson. You’ll even see a Pops Mensah-Bonsu here or there. How crazy do you have to be to shell out money to wear No. 33 or No. 44?

And when you really think about it, it’s crazy that Jurassic Park even exists. The Raptors have been one of the five worst franchises in the NBA. How is there still this much love for the team? We’ve seen other franchises fold when things got rough. The Raptors battled ineptitude, a weak Canadian dollar, zero interest from American outlets, and we’re still here in a fucking Pops Mensah-Bonsu jersey, in the cold, outside the front gates, cheering our asses off.

Shoutout to Raptors fans everywhere. Don’t let anyone take anything away from you. Especially now.

All we want is to stand for a moment to appreciate the view from new heights. We ain’t never been here before so why wouldn’t we be happy to be here.

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