Rockford, IL Celebrates Fred VanVleet & Toronto Raptors Capturing First Ever NBA Championship

Courtesy of DCI

After six long fought games that Toronto Raptors make history as they become the first ever NBA franchise to be crowned NBA Champions out of the United States. Kawhi Leonard became the first Finals MVP to capture the around as a member of both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.

Leonard won his first Finals MVP Award n 2014 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs as they defeated the two-time defending champs the Miami Heat in 5 games. After the Spurs dethroned the two-time the defending champs the back to back Finals MVP LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Cleveland. Fast forward five years, the Golden State Warriors were coming off back to back Final victories but would fall to the Raptors, who were also led by Kawhi Leonard and would suffer the same outcome as the Heat after winning two championships in a row.

Kawhi Leonard was the marque All-Star for the Toronto Raptors, but his supporting cast pitched in a lot during this season, when Leonard had some subpar shooting nights from the floor. In Game 1, the Raptors had a massive game from emerging star  Pascal Siakam, who recorded 32 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, another key player that came up big was Rockford, IL  native Fred VanVleet with 15 off the bench and his hounding defense on former two-time regular season MVP, Steph Curry. In the closeout game for the Raptors, VanVleet scored 22 points going 6-for-14 from the field, including 5-for-11 from three.

Courtesy of DCI

Before Game 6 the city of Rockford and the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau collaborated to throw a massive Jurassic Park watch party to cheer their hometown hero Vanvleet and the Raptors on in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors. More than 6,000 people were in attendance to watch the festivities on the big screen, as the Raptors were able to seal a Game 6 clinching victory and dethrone the defending champs on their home floor and which the final game at the legendary Oracle Arena.

After the Finals had ended, The Hype Magazine was able to speak with Mayor of Rockford, Tom McNamara, and RACVB President/CEO John Groh about what VanVleet and his contribution has meant to the city.  They also share how they planned to celebrate VanVleet returning to his hometown this summer.

What does mean to you that Fred Vanvleet and the Raptors were able to pull this thing off?

“Fred works hard, he’s determined and focused. It’s not a surprise to anyone around here how he did this season. I think Fred and Rockford’s stories are similar – working hard, overcoming obstacles, taking on the tough stuff and beating the odds. Rockford loves Fred and he loves Rockford!.” -John Groh, President/CEO at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Just making it to the Finals brought so much excitement to our community and pride in having one of our own accomplish so much. With Fred and the Raptors bringing home the title, that energy has increased 10 fold.“ – Mayor Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford, IL.

How will the city recognize Fred Vanvleet this summer? 

“On July 12, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will produce/host the third annual Fred VanVleet Fan Fest. That event is Rockford’s largest summer rec night and is hosted at the UW Health Sports Factory in downtown Rockford. We can’t wait to host this event and create a homecoming celebration to celebrate Fred and all his accomplishments this season.” – -John Groh, President/CEO at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

How do you think the win will affect the children in the community as it pertains to them working hard and following their dreams? 

“One of the coolest things about Fred is how he gravitates toward kids and how they flock to him. He’s an amazing role model and is very intentional about being involved in the lives of kids in Rockford. Not only is Fred working hard on the court, he works hard here at home to be involved and help kids get ahead in life. I think that will make a huge difference in the lives of children. He’s a walking, talking example of what any child can achieve through hard work, making good choices, and determination – no matter what path a kid follows in life. His philanthropic works are well document – his summer camps, back to school supplies drive, giving food out at the holidays, visiting kids in hospitals and more.” – -John Groh, President/CEO at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“We’ve seen this season that Fred is clearly a world-class basketball player. More importantly, he’s a world-class citizen who has embraced the community where he grew up and continues to give back to that community.  He knows he’s a role model for kids and he conducts himself that way on and off the court. We watched him excel at Auburn, then at Witchita State and now he’s made us proud on the world stage in the NBA Finals.” – Mayor Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford, IL.

How has the success of Fred VanVleet and the Raptors helped the local economy this season?

“Fred’s rise and reputation certainly isn’t doing any harm, let’s just say that. The awareness for Rockford that his profile brings – yes, the tough stuff but also the hard work that has been put in and is leading Rockford’s resurgence – has been phenomenal. Also, Fred opened up a retail shop in downtown Rockford – FVV Shop. It’s great to see him aligning his brand with our growing central city.” – -John Groh, President/CEO at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Our downtown has been undergoing an incredible transformation in recent years and the Raptors’ playoff run certainly helped that. It was pretty amazing to see such a diverse crowd on at out Rockford Jurassic Park events this week cheering on Fred and the Raptors. People coming together as a community is what our downtown is all about.” – Mayor Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford, IL.

When Fred has his basketball camps later this summer will the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau be involved in any way?

“The Fred VanVleet Fan Fest happens on a Friday night (July 12) and his camp follows on that Saturday and Sunday at the same facility. So, yes, we are involved in that many of the elements of the Fan Fest and Camp are co-planned. However, Fred is fully in charge when it comes to his camp – and he’s very hands-on at the camp throughout the weekend. “ -John Groh, President/CEO at Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Originally Posted on The Hype Magazine.

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Written by Landon Buford

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