Raj Guman came to San Francisco alone to watch the Toronto Raptors take on the Golden State Warriors in their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals — but he was rarely on his own the entire trip.
“You good, man?” Guman said to fellow fan Sameer Mawani, as he greeted him with a bear hug. “Let’s go Raptors!”
The two had never met before that moment, on the morning of Game 4 at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Instead, they connected through a big chat group of Toronto-based Raptors fans heading to the Golden State for the Finals.
“It really started with just three or four of us and then, from there, it just started growing and growing and growing,” said Guman who started the Whatsapp group.
“People would meet people on a plane and get added to the group, walking down the street… people would get added to the group. Right now it’s at 40 or 50 people,” said Guman. “And people are still being added to the group.”
Mawani said he’s already seen the hospitality of his fellow Canadians flying into enemy territory.
“Just a whole bunch of people added me , they knew I was coming down. Everyone was super supportive, they were like, ‘Sam, do you have a place to stay? Do whatever you need to,'” said Mawani.
The two Raptors fans who had just met were joined by Ravi Jain and Brittany Thompson to take a tour of the popular San Francisco pier.
“Many in the group chat have been meeting up at different parts of the city to see the sights and sounds of San Francisco,” said Guman. “It’s us being Canadian; we have this sense of togetherness.
“We are known to be the loudest fans anywhere, but we’re also known to be the most travelled fans everywhere.”
As if right on cue, a couple wearing Raptors jerseys walk up the pier, the team’s logo acting as a beacon between the fans.
Guman’s new group of friends immediately spots the pair and approaches them with hugs and greeting calls of, “Let’s go Raptors!”
Probably one of my favourite videos on my phone from the California trip. Raptors’ fans who had met for the first time in San Francisco, tour Pier 39 together like they’ve been friends forever. #WeTheNorth @globalnewsto pic.twitter.com/gh3zpMT38e
— Kamil Karamali (@KamilKaramali) June 9, 2019
It isn’t long before Guman invites Ryan and Neena Mann to the Whatsapp group, adding two more fans to a fast-growing list of strangers who are quickly becoming more like family.
“Just randomly walking down and I noticed the Raptors jerseys and straight away, it had that friendship, that bond,” said Ryan Mann. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. As long as you’re wearing the same jersey, we’re here to support each other.”
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Ryan and Neena then seamlessly join the group on their tour of Pier 39, believing they’ll likely continue the friendship when they get back to Toronto
“We just met and we had the same colours on, so we knew we were brothers straight away,” said Mann
“I think that really getting together,” said Thompson. “It’s a community; we’ve created long-lasting memories and for sure we’ll all keep in touch.”
“I don’t see how we wouldn’t,” added her partner, Jain. “Hopefully the Raps will be in this position again and now we can all travel to different places, too.”
But not just yet.
These fans hope the Raptors wrap up the series at home on Monday and win the NBA Championship, instead of having to come back to California for Game 6.
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