an open apology to Andrea Bargnani

Dear Andrea,

Let me introduce myself as a Raptors fan from day one. This team came into the league in 1995, two years after THE professional sports franchise of my childhood (the Blue Jays) had won their second world series before dropping off the face of the earth. Not unlike most Canadian teenage boys, I was a huge hockey fan, though my allegiances were offered to a team South of the border at a young age. To make a long story short, my sports world had a hole in it that only a professional basketball team could fill. My Dad took me to my first NBA game in Ottawa in 1996, a Raptors exhibition game against the Knicks, and I remember picking up a Damon Stoudamire ROY t-shirt for the occasion. While I must admit that that my love for Toronto’s team grew large through the He Who Must Not Be Named era, his departure marked a low point, and I began to lose hope that this team would ever really be any good.

But Chris Bosh was here and developing into a nice player, and, in 2006, Brian Colangelo, the 2004–05 NBA Executive of the Year, was named the new President and GM of the Raptors. The table was set for a new era to begin, a fresh start for a team that had (and still has) won only one playoff round in its history. That spring, the ping pong balls fell in the team’s favor, and Toronto was granted the 1st overall pick. The talk leading up to the draft was that Colangelo was set to draft a relatively unknown 7-footer from Italy in what was pegged as somewhat of a weak draft. And it came to pass that on June 28, 2006, you, Andrea Bargnani, was selected selected by Toronto, becoming only the second player without competitive experience in the United States to be drafted first overall.

‘OK’, I thought. ‘I trust Colangelo, and hope that Bargnani becomes what the Raptors believe he can be.’

And this is where I begin my apology. I will admit that, as a product of the instant culture in which we live, I expected greatness immediate results. I would suggest that even you would admit that the opening chapters of your NBA career were underwhelming – rookie averages of 11.6 ppg and 4 rpg, respectable numbers, but lacking the demonstration of the unique skill set that we were told you possessed. I looked around the league and saw fellow draftee Brandon Roy lighting things up at a position that had been a perennial need for this team since the departure of the Quitter, and I openly questioned the wisdom of Mr. Colangelo and his brain trust. As year two came and went and your numbers actually went down, this second guessing only became more prevalent in my mind.

I confess that I did not watch many games last season, your third, as I was in Scotland for school. But I heard rumblings that things were improving, that you were using your size and skills to your advantage and learning more of the North American game. Certainly a coaching change and a fresh voice behind the bench seemed to reinvigorate you and renew your perhaps slightly fragile confidence.

And then I tuned into the 2009-10 season opener, and watched as you hit 3’s and drive to the basket with crazy energy and passion, and I could sense that something seemed different. The result has been a season average of over 17 ppg, and a career high in 3PT’s. But perhaps more impressive has been your play on the other end of the floor. Recently, I have watched you go toe to toe with the likes of Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard, and more than hold your ground. You are rebounding and blocking shots like never before, and finally, I can see consistent glimpses of that which you have to offer this franchise and its fans.

I think we would both agree that there is still some progress to be made, that you have yet to reach the pinnacle of your abilities as a basketball player. That’s OK. Again, sports fans all too often demand immediate results, giving up too early and failing to see that true greatness is a process. While no one can really predict what kind of player you will ultimately develop into, I will certainly acknowledge that on a scale of Araujo to Nowitzki, you are trending quickly towards the latter, and that alone is reason to celebrate the year that you are having.

And so, Mr. Bargnani, Il Mago, I apologize for having rushed to judge your basketball abilities, and for not allowing you the time to grow into the player that you are quickly becoming. Your play this year has been inspiring, and has provided Raptors fans with the hope that the next 15 years will be much better than the first.

If you could please pass along to your teammate Chris Bosh that we all would love to see you play together for years to come, that would be awesome.

Sincerely,

Ian Cameron McLaren

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    • Jeff Lowell
    • January 26th, 2010

    Ian,

    You should be a journalist!! I work for ChristianWeek newspaper in Winnipeg and if you are interested in maybe writing some news articles or a column, I’ll pass your name to my editor.

    ChristianWeek publishes a bi-monthly National edition, a monthly Ontario edition and a monthly Manitoba editioin. (www.christianweek.org)

    Jeff

    • Jay Locke
    • January 27th, 2010

    I agree with Jeff.
    You should be a journalist. You’re a great writer.

    -Jay

  1. I agree with Jeff and I’m happy to hear that you’re finally on the magic band wagon.

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