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Shooting at rally mars Raptors celebration of NBA crown

A giant parade to celebrate the Toronto Raptors winning their first NBA title was marred Monday by a shooting behind the downtown stage at Nathan Phillips Square — which left two people badly injured and sent revelers fleeing in panic.

A crowd estimated at more than one million people gathered across downtown Toronto for a parade in tribute of the team, but the victory rally at the jam-packed square was briefly halted by gunshots.

Toronto police tweeted that two victims had serious but not life-threatening injuries, two people were in custody as a result of the incident and two firearms had been recovered.

Footage shared on social media showed dozens of people scattering from the area behind the stage.

But with a crowd of 65,000 packing the square, the celebration went on with only a delay of about two minutes, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joining the team on stage to celebrate the Raptors’ success.

“Raptors fans, every day you showed what Canada is made of, people who believe,” Trudeau told the rally.

People had begun camping out overnight to fill the square, so many that police told people to avoid the area. Subway stations were closed to limit access.

In a super-sized version of the crowds that packed “Jurassic Park” outside the team’s arena to watch game telecasts, supporters filled the square after more than two hours of delays because spectators spilled onto the parade route to witness players ride by on open-topped buses.

“You think the parade is going to be amazing and you can’t even picture this,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s pretty cool.”

The Raptors beat defending champion Golden State 114-110 on Thursday in California to capture the best-of-seven NBA Finals four games to two.

“It’s amazing,” Raptors star Kawhi Leonard said. “Everybody is out. I don’t think anybody went to work today. Everybody got the day off. Look at it. It’s crazy.

“Thank you Canada for the support. We did it.”

NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Leonard said the team has been celebrating ever since they ran off the court in Oakland.

“The last few days have been amazing,” Leonard said. “No sleep. A lot of celebrating. And we’re going to keep going.”

Players wore T-shirts, sunglasses and held cigars and champagne as they watched people line Lake Shore Boulevard and York Street.

“This is why we wanted to win a championship,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “This is unbelievable. And we ain’t even close to being done.”

Raptors superfan rapper Drake called it, “One of the most important moments I’ve ever been on stage.”

In the ceremony, a roadway near the arena was renamed “Raptors Way” and Leonard accepted the key to the city on behalf of the team to chants of “M-V-P.”

“This thing is so special because of you guys,” Nurse told the crowd — moments before the shooting briefly halted festivities.

 

About Ayeni Wale

Olawale Ayeni, is a Media and Communication Arts, Masters in view fellow, a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Abuja respectively, has been in journalism right from his school days. He was a sports broadcaster with Osun state Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC). He was Sports Editor, Daily Stream Newspaper before joining Leadership Newspaper as Sports Correspondent. A lover of grassroots sports development and golf. A strong support of Arsenal FC.

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