TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors have opened their run to the 2020 playoffs like a house on fire.
Jumping ahead 10-2 before the first stoppage of play, the Raptors looked excited to kick off their post-season Race 1 run against the Brooklyn Nets.
And, really, how could they not be eager to go?
Even under normal circumstances, the adrenaline of a Playoff 1 opening match would be enough to wake the dead. But in the case of the Raptors during last Monday’s opening with the Nets, they were even more motivated.
This is because, after a nice and familiar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Doug Tranquada, star of the Raptors game operations, the playing of “O Canada” has suddenly changed gears to something completely different: a view of the CN Tower, with Canadian singer / songwriter Jessie Reyez on her knees singing the EdgeWalk anthem, where new Canadians often swear in their new home.
“Dude, it was great. It took me by surprise, “Raptors manager Nick Nurse said of Reyez’s performance.” I think everyone was probably thinking the same thing. Are you trying to understand, “Wait a minute, is that the CN Tower?” And then you saw that it was. It was an incredible yield. I thought the camera and the shots of Toronto and all that stuff, I don’t know, would take your breath away. ”
And it wasn’t the only thing the Raptors did to kick off their playoff run that left the team in awe.
Immediately after Reyez’s performance of “O Canada,” the Raptors’ starters were presented not in the standard manner by the public announcer, but by members of their family.
– Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) 17 August 2020
It was such a precious and healthy moment that it even brought a million watt smile to the usual grumpy Kyle Lowry.
“It kept me going. It kept me going, “Lowry said of the introduction his two boys gave him.” My boys, they are my world. I wanted to cry halfway, but I had to [calm] myself. It was great. Now I miss my children even more. It is a memory that will last forever. ”
That kind of reaction from Lowry is exactly what the Raptors behind the scenes were hoping for. Because even with the team in the Walt Disney World bubble, it’s crucial that a Raptors home game still feels like one.
“We’re always trying to think of different ideas and things we can do to help make us feel more at home in the bubble,” Teresa Resch, the Raptors’ vice president of basketball operations, said in a recent interview with Sportsnet. “In basketball operations, we are at every single home game; families are at every single home game. So what can we do to make them feel right at home when those kids hit the pitch, even if they’re in the Disney World bubble? “
Thanks to the dream team of Jennifer Taylor and Rae-Marie Rostant of team services, Tasala Tahir of media relations and technology Raptors lead Happy Pharwaha – with Resch at the helm of the ship – the execution of convincing the families involved to introduce the Toronto starters came together to create an unforgettable moment for Raptors players.
And while it wasn’t a completely original idea (the Phoenix Suns did it first in their penultimate seeding game), as the old saying goes, imitation is often the sincerest form of flattery.
“We give credit where the credit is due, this is not an original idea,” Resch said. “The Phoenix Suns have done this previously in the seeding games and it was fabulous. When they did, I think I got about five different texts from colleagues and different family members saying, ‘Oh, have you seen this? Is fantastic! ‘And it was.
“And, you know, sometimes you wonder if you really want to copy someone, but we just knew how important it would be for our players to see their family. So we went to work. ”
As Resch recalled, the whole process of organizing and preparing everything for Game 1 was a whirlwind for a few days, but in the end it was worth it.
Mad Ruk Entertainment, the company that helped put together that impressive rendition of Reyez’s “O Canada,” was also down for a while.
As Mad Ruk Entertainment CEO Rey Mendoza said in a recent interview, the entire process from conception to making that national anthem took only about 13 days. It’s a notable turning point when you consider that the idea came when Mendoza’s business partner Mauricio Ruiz was brainstorming with MLSE about asking Reyez to sing the national anthem for the opening of the playoffs. of the Raptors.
Ruiz is Reyez’s manager, and as Mendoza recalled, the idea of doing the national anthem on top of the CN Tower was born out of a desire to do something truly great and special.
“Because it was the national anthem of [Raptors playoff] openness and daring as the creativity was, this was a great opportunity for Canada and a historic Canadian moment to do what we can to make it happen. ”
The whole process of shooting the anthem saw its fair share of challenges, as they needed a cameraman on the EdgeWalk and had to use a couple of drones – getting clearance from air traffic control to fly them – to get them to fly. the panoramic shots that said Nurse particularly impressed by him.
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In the end, however, all that mattered was the sight of Reyez singing “O Canada” from the top of the tallest freestanding building in North America, specifically making a message on one knee.
“This was something that was influenced by the Toronto Raptors and it was something he wanted to do in unison with the whole team,” Mendoza said of Reyez who took her knee. “They are taking a knee and she is taking a knee. And we didn’t want to just do it so that he would play the national anthem for the [playoff] you open. It had to be a bold statement and it had to create a moment of awareness. ”
In a recent short documentary Reyez posted on his YouTube channel he explained the importance of the message he was trying to convey by taking a knee with players in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“All I can do is hope it adds to the movement when it comes out as a catalyst,” said Reyez.
And it wasn’t just the Canadian national anthem that Reyez wanted to make a statement with, as she also originally sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” while sending out an even bolder protest message while wearing a Breonna Taylor mask.
“She had Breonna Taylor’s face mask, she pulls it out like Spider-Man, like a superhero – it wasn’t in creativity but that’s how it looks – and she sings the national anthem and then as a camera she goes back and we reveal that he’s on his knees singing the national anthem, ”Mendoza said of the original idea.
Unfortunately for Mendoza, Reyez and the rest of the crew, the American anthem part of Reyez’s CN Tower filming didn’t make the final cut, but here’s a look at the full product for anyone interested:
It’s unclear why Reyez’s “Star-Spangled Bannner” was cut. Regardless, the impact they wanted to convey from the entire production still seemed to work, as the Raptors could barely contain their amazement as they watched the anthem show.
“Honestly I got goosebumps just from seeing Nick Nurse’s face and Lowry’s face,” Mendoza said. “It was like, ‘OK, we got a great reaction!'”
On Thursday, the Raptors will open their second round with the Boston Celtics as the so-called “home” team. The last time they opened a series, the team’s play operations knocked it out with the interpretation of the introductions of the starting lineup of “O Canada” by loved ones.
It will be difficult to win that Thursday, but we can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves.