Fred VanVleet is still betting on himself, but he’s also betting on a fond welcome back to Toronto as the Houston Rockets star released a touching video tribute to the city and his time as a Toronto Raptors player on social media.
VanVleet is injured so he won’t suit up for the Rockets tonight, but the adulation from Toronto fans will pour out nonetheless.
The video shows a very young and fresh-faced VanVleet’s origins as an undrafted player who clawed his way onto the roster and in true Toronto style started from the bottom before rising to stardom. And his tribute to his time here, to the city where he started his family and as he says, “became a man,” is truly heartfelt.
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VanVleet’s journey to NBA stardom was anything but conventional. After going undrafted in 2016, he joined the Raptors’ Summer League team and eventually earned himself a roster spot through sheer determination and hard work. Over the years, he evolved from a relatively unknown player to a household name, becoming an integral part of the Raptors’ championship run in 2019.
During his time in Toronto, VanVleet became known for his tenacity on defense, his clutch shot-making abilities, and his leadership both on and off the court.
It isn’t easy for any Raptors fan to see VanVleet playing in another uniform. It wasn’t see to watch when the Rockets destroyed the Raptors in Housing a month ago when the two teams met for the first time since the trade. Having VanVleet courtside on the bench in street clothes will make it a bit easier, and will give the Raptors a better chance to exact some revenge on a Rockets team still in the hunt for a playoff spot and eager for a win.
As VanVleet himself had once said, his return is “bigger than basketball.” His return to Toronto is a reminder of a better time for the team and for the fans. A time of championships and big-personality players invested in the city, like that time VanVleet posted a video of him getting in a run with some local kids at a park near his North Toronto home.
Drove by had to get a few runs in pic.twitter.com/1QwAFvHHJI
— Fred VanVleet (@FredVanVleet) August 14, 2018
“It’s special for me, it’s special for my family, and I just want to say thanks,” VanVleet says, at the end of his tribute to Toronto. Welcome home Fred. We are so here for it.