FOR Cebu’s basketball fans, the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA championship for the first time is a sign of league development and will make the league exciting years to come for rising and underrated players.

Rico Navarro, a tournament organizer, said it’s a welcome development for the NBA when a team from a country known for hockey wins the championship. It also proves that a small market NBA team can win it all.

The Raptors captured the Larry O’Brien trophy after dethroning the league’s reigning dynasty Golden State Warriors, 114-110, to win the series, 4-2, in a strong road performance at the Oracle Arena.

Kawhi Leonard, who’s playing his first year for the Raptors after his stint in the San Antonio Spurs, was named the Finals MVP.

“Kawhi was never a big name but always got things done. The Spurs questioned his leadership, but leadership comes in different forms. Some are verbal some are not,” said U-Hoops founder DeMarcus Weeks.

“That made the Raptors different; there were no excuses about not having the right teammate. They only found ways to get it done. I enjoyed this series and the Raptors team was built up with players and coaches that nobody wanted. Now they’re the NBA champion,” he added.

Lawyer Jovi Neri believed the key to Toronto’s success was load management with Kyle Lowry and Leonard playing less than 70 games all season. They were fresher in the finals.

“Critics will say the NBA isn’t as physical as it used to be, but in the old physical days, defenders on the offside can rest while the center bodies and posts up. That’s why superstars before averaged over 40 minutes. Today, superstars average less than 35 minutes, and players are bigger injury risks,” Neri said. “Thus, you can’t blame a player anymore for taking days off. Load management is a reality in this day and age, and the Raptors played it perfectly.”

Pio Solon of Epic Performance said the Raptors were destined to become champions.

“They say the will to win is important, but the will to prepare is even more important. Though the series will always be marred by controversy regarding the Warriors’ injury woes, one cannot deny that the Raptors were made for this moment. Nick Nurse has done something great and the pressure will be on them to do it again next year,” he said.

Bertoni Salazar, the organizer of the Cebu Elite Basketball Club and owner of Tough Gear Sports Wear, said he’s excited with the new era of rising superstars.

“I’m very happy for the Raptors franchise and the first time champion players especially the veterans on the team. The Warriors were obviously the favorite to win but the injuries of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson hurt their chances really bad. I’m happy that as the decade is about to unfold, a new era of rising superstars and teams is slowly taking over the league,” he said.

Sisters of Mary School athletic director Van Halen Parmis, Cebu Institute of Technology University coach Dennis Pacquiao and Olympian Mary Joy Tabal all believed the Raptors bucked the odds from being the underdog to champions.

“Some may say it was a stroke of good luck for the Raptors considering that there were many injuries, but still the Raptors played remarkably well, and this title could be the first in a series of victories for the underdog-turned-invincible Northerns,” said Parmis.

Tabal who was in Canada in Game 1 said she felt the intensity and hype at the ScotiaBank Arena.

“It was timely since I was in Canada on Game 1. That was a night before my race in the Ottawa Marathon. The Raptors won Game 1 and the people in Toronto were all hyped up. I felt that time that the Raptors could really win this series even if I was a fan of Stephen Curry,” said Tabal, who’s an avid PBA and NBA fan.

“I did not expect the Raptors to win the championship. The team was the underdog coming into the finals. Some said it was a mismatch and the Warriors would sweep the Raptors. But the series became interesting and contrary to what was expected,” said Pacquiao.