Raptors Uprising were back out in the city Thursday night, this time partnering with Tangerine for an NBA 2K League Playoffs Watch Party including the final stop in the FIVEs for $5k in the VI series at the Rec Room Toronto.
Toronto’s professional NBA 2K League team were joined by Nav Bhatia, Toronto Raptors’ Superfan and community ambassador, who hosted the event which drew a wide-array of esports fans from around the city. In addition to getting the chance to meet and interact with Raptors Uprising professionals and the Raptors’ Superfan, smiling fans were treated to free food and drinks, fabulous prizes, and a live-stream of the NBA 2K League playoffs.
“I think these guys [Raptors Uprising] spent too much time watching the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena,” joked Bhatia, as he acknowledged the players, who missed the playoffs for the first time in their brief two-year history despite finishing .500.
Bhatia’s jabs set the tone for the night: light banter, a lot of laughs, and the coming together of a niche community, as Raptors Uprising’s Gerald “Sick x 973” Knapp had a front-row view to it all. The New Jersey-native, who was acquired from Cleveland’s Cavs Legion GC halfway through the season, says he’s been thrilled with how much time and effort goes into events like this and esports as a whole in the 6ix.
“Toronto really seems dedicated to its players,” said Sick x 973. “The management for Raptors Uprising is just really involved — especially with events like this. And while I’m still learning everything there is to in esports, I’ve learned a lot more about it in Toronto than I did in New Jersey or Cleveland.”
Behind all Thursday night’s fun and entertainment, however, there was still business to take care of.
Over the course of the summer, Raptors Uprising and their partners like Tangerine have been hosting popup gameplay events around the city, which allowed teams to compete to earn points to qualify for the $5,000 Finals, live on stream at the NBA 2K League finals viewing party at the Bell Fibe House on Aug. 3.
One of the teams that qualified for next Saturday’s event was 6GL, who became household faces at the Raptors Uprising’s Five For $5k In The VI events.
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) July 26, 2019
“Get-togethers like these are an amazing opportunity,” said Skylar Lapp, a member of 6GL who’s excited to compete at the Bell Fibe House. “It’s something to look forward to — a place to accelerate your gameplay.”
As Lapp points out though, it’s about more than just competing. 6GL is comprised of six members of an online league, who before events like this never had the opportunity to meet one another in-person.
“My team and I have actually become friends over these events,” said Lapp. “It’s really kind of cool. I’m always keeping an eye out for the next event so I can say what’s up to the guys.”
Stories like Lapp’s aren’t uncharacteristic at Raptors Uprising events. Similar sentiment was shared at another Toronto get-together last week from Witness The Grind’s Ryan “Devillon” De Vos who will represent the other team competing in the $5000 Finals.
“My teammates and I, we all know each other through the game,” said Devillon at the time. “We had never met in person, but we honestly became good friends by coming to [Raptors Uprising] events. We come here and we have a great time with people you play with online all the time.”
Stories like these are how communities get built, and that is why it was perfect to have Nav Bhatia host Thursday’s event presented by Tangerine at the Rec Room. The Raptors’ Superfan, who took his time going around table-to-table to chat and take pictures with fans, is an expert witness to the growth of the basketball scene in Toronto and believes he sees a lot similarities between Raptors Uprising and their parent club.
“It’s amazing to see this many young people coming out and supporting [Raptors Uprising], and I believe this is just the beginning of it,” wrapped up Bhatia. “You will see that the time will come where this will go crazy. This is going to go crazy. Thank you to MLSE for bringing this to Toronto — just like you brought the Raptors 24 years ago.”