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For Kanter, Raptors on Christmas Day is greater than basketball

TORONTO – After 25 years, the Toronto Raptors and their fans received the award for hosting a coveted game on Christmas Day for the first time ever.

How is it then?

Well, except for a much more revamped production by the Raptors & # 39; Game Operations crew and a playoff-level audience – though much happier and a lot less nervous than the spring buzz – it's like any normal seasonal game between two high-profile opponents.

That said, the Raptors & # 39; 118-102, played by the Boston Celtics on Wednesday afternoon, were entertaining enough until it was no longer due to their blow-out type and ultimately just another regular season game – if you see it So purely from a basketball perspective.

The truth, like the holidays themselves, is that a Christmas game means so much more than just who won or lost or what has to do with the game at all.

Therefore, it is worth asking another question: If it is not about basketball on Christmas Day, what is it about?

The answer to this question is not that easy to find, but some parts of a resolution were displayed during Wednesday's matinee competition.

Especially with 4:49 in the first quarter, when Celtics backup center Enes Kanter came into play for the first time on a mostly subdued answer.

Probably because he played for the opposition, but the soft applause for Kanter's entry into the game is a bit of a shame, because if more of the sold-out Scotiabank Arena spectators knew what Kanter went through to get a foot in the game at all set the country for Canada's first NBA game on Christmas Day, let alone on the pitch, there might have been a standing ovation that threatened to temporarily stop the game.

After all, Kanter only knew two days ago that he was allowed to go to Canada.

Enes Kanter before the Boston Celtics Christmas game against the Toronto Raptors (Kishan Mistry / Sportsnet) Canadian government, he would be able to enter the country and play in Toronto on Christmas Day.

A special moment when Kanter – based on comments criticized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the treatment of his citizens by the government – is a wanted man by the leader of his home country and is threatened, bullied and even almost kidnapped by professionals became an Erdogan agent when he left the United States, which means that he could not travel outside of the United States when his team went abroad.

And until Monday Kanter's status for this Christmas game was still open.

"I only knew 100 percent on the 23rd," Kanter said before the Wednesday game when he knew he could play.

"The Celtics have been working on it since the beginning of the season," he added. “When we found out we had a Christmas game in Toronto, they were just starting to work on it. I spoke to the immigration chief of staff two days ago who actually said, "We're all good." One of my friends contacted Trudeau's office yesterday and they said, "We're all good" and we did it didn't tell me to worry about it and that everything would go smoothly. "

Kanter has not played an NBA game outside of the U.S. since November 10, 2018, when he was a member of the New York Knicks – against the Raptors. It is a period of time that seems like years to him, and as such, being able to play back in Toronto every day at Christmas meant a lot more to him.

"It's more than a game for me," said Kanter. "It’s definitely a blessing to play on Christmas Day, especially in Toronto, the defending champion. But it feels good to be outside. It feels good to be free and it feels good to enjoy this time with my teammates. It's incredible. "

Adding later: "It's not just about basketball, it's something bigger. Now it's like the leaders of the world have my back, now it's like the government has my back. Take the Turkish government . "

Enes Kanters "Freedom" shoes during the game "Boston Celtics" on Christmas Day against the Toronto Raptors (Kishan Mistry / Sportsnet)

That's exactly what Kanter is about when he plays at Christmas. As he said, it's so much more.

"I try to use my story to tell other stories," said Kanter. "I want to thank Canada because they are definitely a role model and accept Turkish refugees around the world and that is why it is so important to thank Mr. Trudeau, the Canadian government, for supporting me because it is really, really important was. "

But you don't have to have seen Kanter's struggles to understand the importance and symbolism of playing at Christmas.

"It's just something special. Having the opportunity for my kids to see me playing and just enjoying the moment is a cool man," said Kyle Lowry after the game as it was playing at Christmas "It took me 14 years to make it, but it was a fun, great time."

Lowry didn't play for more than the Raptors and his family, but that doesn't discredit the special feeling he had about playing at Christmas – a time when seeing or being seen by loved ones meant so much more ,

And to come back to the original question: What is a Christmas game about?

Yes, Lowry & # 39; s Raptors were bombed in a non-competitive game, but he fulfilled his dream of playing on that day and had his two pre-mature, angry boys with him for the special occasion.

That is not bad at all.

Sure, Kanter had a nice game with 12 points – 10 in the first half alone – and 11 rebounds, but the message he shared on his Nike sneakers is another part of what it was about that day really goes: "freedom".

Christmas should be a time in which we celebrate humanity. Having fun watching basketball or even playing is part of it, and above all the ability to enjoy what you do to celebrate without fear.

A Christmas basketball game is not just about Christmas.

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