The Toronto Raptors have clinched their first NBA Championship – yet there has been plenty more to this series than the action on the court, and it has involved some of the biggest names in the world.
Rapper Drake and singer Beyonce have both had parts to play in the drama, which ended on Thursday as the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 114-110 to clinch their best-of-seven series 4-2.
Led by star man Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have been pretty dominant in this series against an injury-hit Warriors, the defending back-to-back champions.
If you need a recap of what went down, here is a game-by-game breakdown of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Game one: Drake trolls the Warriors
The opening game of the series was played in Toronto, with the Raptors winning 118-109, but most of the headlines were made on the sidelines.
Before the game started, Toronto-born rapper and Raptors ambassador Drake entered the arena wearing a throwback Dell Curry jersey.
Curry played for the Canadian side between 1999 and 2002, and is father to the Warriors’ star point guard, Stephen Curry.
Drake – nicknamed ‘Champagne Papi’ – is actually friends with Curry junior, and even has a tattoo dedicated to him on his arm.
The rapper, however, decided to cover it with a sweat band so there was no doubting his allegiance to the Raptors – and there was more trolling to come. During the game, Drake was pictured picking something out of Curry’s hair and later posted this on Instagram…
As well as calling out Warriors’ Draymond Green in the post, Drake also appeared to call the forward “trash” as the players walked off the court.
Game two: ‘See you in the Bay, Aubrey’
The Warriors bounced back in game two in Toronto, winning 109-104 thanks to Andre Iguodala’s late three-pointer.
Raptors’ forward Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 34 points but the result was a bit of reality check for Toronto and their fans.
Drake had turned up in trolling mood again, wearing a Home Alone hoodie with ‘Kevin?!’ and a picture of a young Macaulay Culkin printed across the back – an apparent jibe at injured Warriors star Kevin Durant.
Yet Klay Thompson scored 25 points to lead Golden State to the win, and Drake was spotted having changed his hoodie to something more understated midway through the game.
Afterwards, Thompson had some choice words for Drake – real name Aubrey Drake Graham – outside the locker room.
“See you in the Bay [Area], Aubrey!” taunted Thompson. “You weren’t talking tonight, were you?”
Game three: Bad blood in Oakland
For the first time, the series moved to the Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, but any home-court advantage was negated by the Golden State’s growing injury list, which now included game two hero Thompson.
Curry scored 47 points for the hosts, but his heroic effort was ultimately in vain as the Raptors won 123-109 – and the game will be most-likely remembered for a couple of remarkable fan interactions.
After Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry fell into a row of seats while trying to save the ball from going out of bounds, a spectator was seen pushing Lowry as he tried to get back up.
It was an unsavoury incident, condemned by many players, pundits and fans, including LeBron James.
But the perpetrator wasn’t just any fan; it was Warriors’ part-owner Mark Stevens, who got a season-long ban and a fine of $500,000 from the NBA.
Another more subtle bit of courtside beef caught the public’s attention as well.
In a viral video watched almost 15 million times on Twitter, Nicole Curran, the wife of the Warriors’ owner Joseph Lacob, can be seen leaning past Beyonce to talk to the singer’s husband, Jay-Z.
Some were quick to point out that Beyonce seemed unhappy with the perceived invasion of personal space, and the singer’s fans left some unpleasant comments on Curran’s Instagram posts.
Anyway, after all that drama, the Raptors were 2-1 up.
Game four: Can’t stop ‘The Claw’
The return of Thompson wasn’t enough for the Warriors as they again struggled to contain Leonard, Lowry and Serge Ibaka, with Toronto winning 105-92 in Oakland.
For once the main focus was on the court, as Leonard (aka ‘The Claw’) scored 36 points to give the Raptors a 3-1 series lead – just one win away from a first NBA Championship in their 24-year history.
Unsurprisingly, Drake was once again feeling chipper, trolling Golden State’s Draymond Green on his Instagram after the game.
After all, only once before had a team come from 3-1 down to the win the NBA Championship – LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers against the Warriors in 2016.
Game five: Warriors won’t quit
Kevin Durant finally returned for Golden State for this must-win game in Toronto, as the Warriors squeaked out a 106-105 win to force game six and keep alive hope of a third straight NBA title.
The Warriors were able to keep the Raptors at arm’s length for most of the game thanks to Curry’s 31 points, and a late Green block to deny Lowry at the buzzer sealed the win.
But the sweetness of victory was tempered by the fact that Durant was once again forced off after injuring his Achilles in the second quarter and left the venue on crutches – his series over.
The Warriors were clearly shaken by the extent of the injury to the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals’ Most Valuable Player, with general manager Bob Myers moved to tears as he discussed it with the media in the post-game press conference.
Given the extent to which Raptors super-fan Drake had trolled the Warriors stars throughout the series, it was good to see the rapper post a message of support for Durant on his social media after the game.
So 3-2 then, with the series heading back to Oakland for game six.
Game Six: Championship secured
Game. Series. Toronto.
After a 114-110 win in California, the Raptors secured a franchise first NBA Championship by winning the series 4-2.
Toronto were on the mark offensively, with four players scoring more than 20 points – Lowry (26), Pascal Siakam (26), Leonard (22) and Fred VanVleet (22).
Warriors guard Thompson kept Golden State in the game as he dropped 30 points but then tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It means he, alongside Durant, will probably miss the majority of next season.
Curry had a chance to tie the series with a three-pointer when the Warriors trailed 111-110 with seconds left on the clock, but missed.
Cue wild celebrations all across Canada.
From Montreal and Vancouver to a Toronto fan zone hosted by Drake and known as ‘Jurassic Park’ – the whole country took it in.
During all the celebrations, Leonard was unsurprisingly announced as the Finals’ Most Valuable Player, becoming only the third man to win the award with two different teams, having done so with San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
‘The Claw’ has been a standout player across their entire play-off run in scoring that incredible late buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers and absolutely dominating the Milwaukee Bucks to reach the championship final.
Leonard and the Raptors have given Canada something to celebrate and the party shows no signs of stopping. Amid all the drama, all the trolling and all the injury talk, the Raptors have finally done it – they are NBA champions.