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Perseverance – Raptors Mania

Jun 18, 2019 | Coaching

Since the Toronto Raptors pursuit of their first NBA title has been distracting me from blog writing, I thought I would make them the subject of this post.

Perseverance is defined as, “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

First, let’s look at how difficult it is to make the NBA in the first place. There are roughly 450 players in the NBA and over 327 million people in the US alone. That means .0000013% of the US population plays in the NBA. A small and fortunate group of people make it to the NBA.

Even if you play high school basketball as a senior, you have an estimated 3 in 10,000 chance of making it. Truly, it takes many years of determination, hard work and probably some luck to make it to the league. Then it can take many more years to help build a championship team.

Kyle Lowry, drafted 24th overall, played for both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets. During his tenure on both teams he struggled and competed for the starting point guard role and was beat out by other players. There were questions about his heart and attitude during this time. It wasn’t until he joined the Toronto Raptors and was challenged by Masai Ujiri and others in the organization that he truly began to flourish. “Do you want to be a $3 million player, $2 million player for the rest of your career,” Ujiri remembers asking Lowry, “or do you want to be a $10 million or more player?” Lowry also received mentorship from Chauncey Billips who Lowry remembers “pushed me mentally to challenge myself.”[1]

Over the next six long years he would improve his conditioning every year by working even harder in the offseason and he would see his team improve every year. It took him nine years of hard work to become an NBA All-Star for the first time and another four years to finally become an NBA champion at the age of 33.

He had to battle a broken wrist and many other injuries and see his best friend, who he had toiled with for many years to build up the team, traded away. In the last two years, he has scored less and found more ways to get his teammates the ball as reflected in his career high 8.7 assists per game this season. Still he persevered and today he is an NBA champion!

Then there is Marc Gasol who was drafted 48th overall and toiled for the same team for eleven years before being traded to the Raptors. He spent three years playing in Spain after graduating college before making it to the NBA. He had multiple seasons shortened by injury, a MCL sprain in 2013 and then a broken foot in 2015. Still he persevered and today he is a NBA champion at the age of 34.[2]

But maybe the best example the Raptors can offer of perseverance is the one Raptor that contributed to building the foundation for this championship team and then was traded away the year before they won it all: Demar Derozan. Derozan was drafted by the Raptors and alongside Lowry helped build the Raptors into a perennial playoff contender. With his help, the Raptors went from missing the playoffs in each of the first four years to winning four Atlantic titles in five years and making the playoffs in each of those five years.


Season League Conference Finish Division Finish Regular season Playoffs Awards
GP W L Pct.
2009–10 NBA Eastern 9th Atlantic 2nd 82 40 42 .488
2010–11 NBA Eastern 14th Atlantic 5th 82 22 60 .268
2011–12[b] NBA Eastern 11th Atlantic 4th 66 23 43 .348
2012–13 NBA Eastern 10th Atlantic 4th 82 34 48 .415
2013–14 NBA Eastern 3rd Atlantic 1st 82 48 34 .585 Lost First Round (Nets) 4–3
2014–15 NBA Eastern 4th Atlantic 1st 82 49 33 .598 Lost First Round (Wizards) 4–0 Lou Williams (SMOY)
2015–16 NBA Eastern 2nd Atlantic 1st 82 56 26 .683

Won First Round (Pacers) 4–3

Won Conference Semifinals (Heat) 4–3

Lost Conference Finals (Cavaliers) 4–2

2016–17 NBA Eastern 3rd Atlantic 2nd 82 51 31 .622

Won First Round (Bucks) 4–2

Lost Conference Semifinals (Cavaliers) 4–0

2017–18 NBA Eastern 1st Atlantic 1st 82 59 23 .720

Won First Round (Wizards) 4–2

Lost Conference Semifinals (Cavaliers) 4–0

Dwane Casey (COY)
2018–19 NBA Eastern 2nd Atlantic 1st 82 58 24 .707

Won First Round (Magic) 4–1

Won Conference Semifinals (76ers) 4–3

Won Conference Finals (Bucks) 4–2

Won NBA Finals (Warriors) 4–2

Kawhi Leonard (FMVP)

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Toronto_Raptors_seasons

So, how must he have felt when he received the news that he had been traded? And how must he feel when many consider the need for him to be traded as the reason the Raptors were able to win their first title? I won’t speculate on his emotional state but I’m sure he had to dig deep to overcome these circumstances. To work and toil for nine years for the same team that drafted you and not be part of the ultimate success must be devastating. This is why he is perhaps the best example of perseverance because his success has been delayed, and made even harder, but still he goes to the gym and works on his game every day and pursues that ever difficult goal of one day becoming an NBA champion.

While we may not have such lofty goals in our own lives as becoming NBA champions, we should all have great goals that are worth pursuing even when there is difficulty and delay in achieving them.

1. What goals do you have, or may have had in the past, that you did not achieve? Write down three examples.

2. Were there circumstances outside your control that prevented you from achieving them? What made you stop pursuing those goals? Write down some of the reasons for each goal above.

3. What if you had decided to persevere and pursue those goals anyways? What are the actions you can do to still pursue them now?

Many of us let outside circumstances rob us of the joy of working towards our goals. Sometimes the pursuit of the goal, the work and effort put into achieving it is more valuable than the goal itself. The joy of winning an NBA title must be euphoric. It will eventually pass and the continuing joy of honing your craft and competing with and against great players in a game that you love has to be the main driver for many players. Sure, there is the financial windfall but there are many, many years of perseverance required to reach it.

I challenge you to reevaluate the goals above and find at least one that is worth pursuing for you even though the pursuit will continue to be difficult and the rewards uncertain. I also challenge you to embrace the process of achieving this goal and find joy in the daily work that will get you the results you desire!

To the Toronto Raptors, congratulations and thank you for the inspiring journey! I have been watching and cheering since Vinsanity took over many years ago. I am happy to see the franchise finally achieve the ultimate success of winning its first NBA championship!

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyle_Lowry
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Gasol
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Toronto_Raptors_seasons

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I would like to know: What goals are you pursuing and persevering towards? Share your goals and your challenges in the comment section below.

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