In this file photo, Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka, middle, celebrates with Larry Tanenbaum, left, and George Cope after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Huge crowds gathering in downtown Toronto for Raptors parade, rally

TORONTO — Jubilant Raptors fans decked out in the team’s gear are jamming downtown Toronto this morning as they await the team’s victory parade.

A car carrying coach Nick Nurse was mobbed.

Fans — including entire families wearing Raptors gear — filled the streets and subways as early as 7 a.m.

Some have been camped out all weekend in hopes of nabbing a prime spot along the parade route or at Nathan Phillips Square, which was overflowing with people by 8 a.m.

Along the fans celebrating will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, making a brief visit to Toronto for the event.

Kyle Lowry, the longest-serving member of team, expressed excitement on Twitter about the gathering hordes.

“I heard we getting 2million got the parade,” he said in a tweet. “Grandma I know you front row already!!”

Mayor John Tory has declared Monday “We The North Day” in Toronto, after the NBA champions’ slogan.

The parade — which is to be followed by a rally — is set to get underway at 10 a.m. eastern time and wind its way through the downtown to Toronto City Hall.

The Raptors will travel the parade route in open-air double-decker buses with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in tow, according to team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

A parade-viewing party is also planned in a nearby park to relieve congestion along the route.

An hour-long rally will follow at Nathan Phillips Square, the large public square in front of city hall, complete with a fly-by from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Snowbirds demonstration team.

The last time the city held a sports celebration of this magnitude was after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. That parade saw fans climbing trees and statues on city streets to catch a glimpse of a team that included Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

Then-premier Bob Rae took part in those celebrations, flashing a sign that read “No speech today — Hooray for the Jays.” Current Premier Doug Ford has said he intends to watch this event with the masses.

His press secretary said Ford wants the day to be about the fans and players, not politicians.

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