A look back at the second Uprising

With four returning members from last year’s playoff-bound team, Raptors Uprising had high expectations heading into its second season that began back in April.

And while Toronto didn’t replicate their inaugural on-court success from a year ago as the team initially set out to, 2019 saw two narratives continue in the 6ix that are starting to become fluent with the Raptors Uprising culture: a group of players from around North America learning to come together as a team and the continued development of one of the NBA 2K League’s most involved franchises and cities.

“I think this team’s greatest strength is chemistry,” said MLSE Esports Manager Shane Talbot after the 2019 entry draft, referring to the team’s familiarity with one another.

And that same chemistry has been called upon at times throughout the season, in the face of inconsistency, adversity, and the very first trade in team history.

The story of the second season began at the Tipoff Tournament where Raptors Uprising won the very first game of 2019 in dominant, double-lock, Dimez-defying fashion against a tough Mavs Gaming team. With the win, Toronto would emerge atop of Group A and qualify for the team’s first quarter-finals in franchise history, setting the tone at tournaments for the season where the team from the North would win at least a game at every single-elimination competition.

After falling to Magic Gaming in the knockout stages at the opening tournament, Raptors Uprising would open their second regular season against two tough opponents — their familiar foes in Cavs Legion GC and 2019 runners-up and back-to-back Tipoff tournament champions 76ers GC — resulting in a pair of losses.

A critical bye week followed, as the team rebounded in Week 3 with two big wins over the eventual NBA 2K League champions T-Wolves Gaming and expansion franchise NetsGC to return to .500. In their first win of the season, Trevion “All Hail Trey” Hendrix and rookie Georgio “OOC Slim” Bonte propelled Toronto to victory with a combined 47 points, while Seanquai “KingQuai614” Harris was pivotal in the team’s second win, bringing down a game-high 20 rebounds.

Unfortunately, Raptors Uprising couldn’t build on their Week 3 momentum, falling to a hot Bucks Gaming team in a highly-anticipated Week 4 matchup, before departing to Las Vegas for The Turn: the second tournament of the year — and perhaps the setting of Toronto’s most season-defining moment.

With trade rumours swirling around at the HyperX ESports Arena in Nevada, former Pistons GT guard Freddie “Doza” Mendoza, who Raptors Uprising selected in the first-round at the 2019 entry draft, would help lighten the tension around the Toronto squad, scoring a game-high 18 points to lift his team over Detroit in the play-in game. Although the team would once again go on to lose to Bucks Gaming, the tournament marked a monumental moment in Raptors Uprising and NBA 2K League history.

On May 13, 2019, Raptors Uprising officially announced to the NBA 2K community that the team acquired Gerald “Sick x 973” Knapp in exchange for All Hail Trey. However, thanks to the great work by the North Code crew — Raptors Uprising’s behind-the-scenes documentary series following the team — we all got to see one of the most poignant and revealing scenes in not only NBA 2K League history, but perhaps all of sports. Take a look below.

Following an eye-opening interaction between then-opponents Sick x 973 and Raptors Uprising second-year player Kenneth “Kenny Got Work” Hailey, the team decided to congregate in a meeting room at the hotel in Las Vegas. Chatting and waiting expectantly, Talbot enters and somberly announces to the team that Raptors Uprising have traded All Hail Trey to Cavs Legion GC for Sick x 973. Silence follows — silence that speaks a thousand words, as trades are always one of the toughest aspects in all of professional sport.

All Hail Trey, a tremendous competitor and even better teammate, is not easily replaceable. With that being said, everyone understands that it’s purely a basketball decision, and the team’s first-ever trade has brought in an extremely skilled big man who Toronto has highly touted in exchange for one of Raptors Uprising’s many scorers.

Another well-timed bye week follows the shakeup in Week 6, allowing Sick x 973 to get accustomed to his new Bell Fibe House in Toronto. The New Jersey-native would make an immediate impact in his debut the following week, helping Raptors Uprising push the regular-season leaders Blazer5 Gaming to the brink, however, coming up just short before easily topping Lakers Gaming in Sick x 973’s first 20-point game since joining the team.

Sitting at 3-4, the squad continued its highs and lows over their next two weeks, winning two of their next four contests. They opened Week 7 by losing to Magic Gaming in an off-effort, before Memphis-native Kenny Got Work scored 27 points to defeat Grizz Gaming and put Toronto back into the win column. They then stumbled against a lowly Wizards District Gaming team before beating playoff-bound Pacers Gaming to end Week 8 and enter the final and most important tournament of the season on a high note.

There came a little magic. Down in Orlando for the TICKET Tournament, in search of an automatic playoff berth, Raptors Uprising defeated Lakers Gaming in a play-in game to begin the competition. Then, despite trailing by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, Raptors Uprising upset the fourth-seeded Celtics Crossover Gaming — runner-up at the 2018 Ticket Tournament — on a dunk by Sick x 973 with just three seconds remaining. The last-second magic changed sides in the quarter-finals, however, where Raptors Uprising were eliminated by eventual TICKET champions Warriors Gaming Squad on a last-second shot of their own.

The weekly splits then continued in Week 10. Celtics Crossover exacted a little revenge with a win over Toronto, before Raptors Uprising held Jazz Gaming to just 40 points in a must-win. In Week 11, needing two wins to stay in the playoff hunt, the team beat Pistons GT, playing one of its best games of the season, but once again failed to string together a pair of victories, dropping the subsequent game to a fired-up Heat Check Gaming squad.

Through it all, Raptors Uprising have been involved in the community hosting popup gameplay events around the city and other competitions to keep their fans engaged. And the final week of the season, with LOTTO MAX Up Close Experience competition winner Phil “TheReelPhilD” Doucet in attendance, was a perfect moment to create Raptors Uprising.

The team from Toronto cruised to a 79-52 win over 2018 champions Knicks Gaming in record-setting fashion. Sitting just two points short of the league’s first triple-double of the season, KingQuai614 drained a buzzer-beater in the face of three Knicks defenders to finish with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and a league-record 11 steals to complete the first triple-double in team history — and second-ever in NBA 2K League history. Second-year Raptors Uprising player and lockdown defender Joshua “TsJosh” McKenna also finished the game with a career-high 26 points.

In a game where the team forced 33 opposing turnovers, an NBA 2K League record, Raptors Uprising became one of only a handful of teams to finish at least .500 in two straight seasons.

While the story of the second Raptors Uprising is that they fell short of the playoffs despite a valiant effort, it’s only part of the whole tale. It doesn’t account for the countless hours behind the scenes put forth for the community events, watch parties, popup gaming competitions, and most importantly the bonds formed between the 2019 Raptors Uprising: Kenny Got Work, TSJosh, Doza, OOC Slim, KingQuai614, and Sick x 973. One trade, twenty-four games, and hundreds if not thousands of scrimmages later, the story of the second Raptors Uprising is drawing to a close: the story of roommates, teammates, and brothers.