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DeMar DeRozan.

DeMar DeRozan: His perseverance should see him become the greatest Raptor ever

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Many before him have tried, failed and given up, but DeMar DeRozan has the determination to make the Toronto Raptors great, and will not give up until he does so.

Since the franchise was formed in 1993 - playing its first NBA game in 1995 - they have longed to be among the elite organisations in the league, but for so many years it has been the opposite. 

The Raptors have been looked at as something as a mediocre franchise but that feeling has now disappeared into thin air and DeRozan can be thanked for contributing significantly to that. 

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Drafted in 2009 with the ninth overall pick, the two-time All-Star has grown in his seven years in Toronto and has had to endure some dark days to eventually get to the brighter ones he's enjoying now. 

Responsibility

Vince Carter is the man responsible for making basketball a popular sport in the city - his epic appearances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest will live long in the memory - but on the court, he couldn't get the Raptors beyond the first round of a playoff series before ultimately moving on.

Chris Bosh came after him and despite becoming one of the best power forwards in the league during his time in Toronto, he faced the same problems as Carter, twice losing in the opening round before leaving to join the Miami Heat in 2010 in search of a championship. 

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game Two

After Bosh's departure, a 19-year-old DeRozan was thrust into the limelight and became the team's franchise player.

Despite being drafted just a year earlier, the challenge of making the Raptors a winning organisation fell on him. It was a challenge he hasn't shied away from, instead choosing to carry a franchise and a city on his back.

The long road

Toronto just ended the 2015-16 regular season with a franchise-high 56-26 record and DeRozan became the winningest player in Raptors history. They became the final team in the league to have a 50-win season and despite some bumps in the road along the way, they made it.

"It means everything to me," DeRozan said after a win over the Atlanta Hawks which secured the 50th win.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks

"This is where I've been my whole career. I've been through the tough times. Now to be, what do you call it, the winningest Raptor of all time and now to break the franchise record three years in a row, it definitely means a lot to me.

"You can never take that away. When (reporters) bring up things that I've done here, reality really hits me, honestly, because you really don't think about all of the things you've (done) or things you've accomplished."

The 26-year-old had his best ever campaign in the league, averaging career-highs of 23.5 points, 4 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.  

In the process, the Compton native passed Carter for second on the Toronto Raptors' all-time scoring list. 

After an amazing year, expectations and optimism were at an all-time high as the 82-game campaign drew to a close. Never mind getting through round one, fans in the six have hopes of going all the way.

Playoffs

The last two years followed a familiar pattern for the Canadian outfit as they failed to negotiate a way past the opening round on both occasions and finally overcome the obstacle that weighs so heavily on them and their fanbase.

It seemed like the team was cursed and DeRozan would suffer the same fate as Carter and Bosh before him, but he got back up and is on a mission to lead the Raptors to a first-ever playoff series win. 

The NBA postseason got underway in Toronto with the seventh seed Indiana Pacers providing the visitors to DeRozan and co. at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday. 

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game One

After a 100-90 win for the Paul George-inspired Pacers, the question marks over the team and DeRozan surfaced immediately. The outside noise didn't distract the team though as they emerged victorious in game two to even the series heading to Indianapolis 

Despite the game two win, DeRozan was 10-of-37 from the field over the course of the two encounters and was less than inspiring. That all changed on Thursday night, however.

The USC product finally resembled a man ready to take the leap from a very good player to a great one.

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game One

The All-Star swingman scored 21 points as the Raptors routed the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and that elusive playoff series victory is now firmly within their grasp. 

If the moment arises at long last, DeRozan should go down as the greatest Raptor of all-time and it will certainly be a victory for perseverance.

If they fail again, though, the shooting guard's impending free agency will become a worry for everybody associated with the Raptors as he could follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and jump ship. 

But after coming so far and working so hard to get to this point, it would be a shame to see DeRozan throw it all away. Let's hope he doesn't have to.

Topics:
NBA
DeMar DeRozan
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Kyle Lowry

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