Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is one of the most exciting budding superstars in the NBA. Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance, he seems destined for the next step into the pantheon of the league’s elite. The kind of stars who can overcome injuries, deal with locker room distractions, or you know, ignore the quiet but jolting jeering from arena mascots. If Tuesday night was any indication, Booker might not be ready for that next step just yet.
Due to pandemic restrictions, Toronto is home to an empty arena which still feels spooky even after we saw a plethora of such venues just over a year ago. So with 6.5 seconds to play and Phoenix up one point, that left just one soul to try to distract Booker from extending the lead: the Raptors’ mascot.
This rubs me the wrong way in all sorts of fashions. First of all, the look on Booker’s face was one of disgust. Was that disgust at the referee? Was he supposed to be keeping tabs on the mascot? Can you imagine if a ref missed a traveling call, and coach stormed to him to argue only to hear the ref say, “I apologize, I was locked in on Benny the Bull.”
Maybe he was just disgusted with the mascot? Which, if that’s the case, has Booker ever seen mascots before? “It was awful! He was dancing and jumping around and waving his arms, sometimes even shaking his head at me.” That’s kind of their thing, man.
Another thing that bothers me is why should a mascot distract him anyway? I can’t imagine an episode of The Shop where Russell Westbrook, Marcus Smart and Dwyane Wade are discussing the famously awful things they’ve heard from fans in the stands only for Booker to retort, “if you think that’s bad, one time I had a speechless, cotton dinosaur waving at me.”
The final thing I cannot get over is when I did a little background research for this blog, I discovered the mascot’s name. The Toronto Raptors’ mascot’s name is “The Raptor.” What in the Clemson hell is this? The league is littered with fantastic mascot names. You have Lucky the Leprechaun in Boston, Bango the Buck in Milwaukee, Burnie in Miami and on and on.
You have a full marketing team at your disposal. You’re a relatively new team who had ample time to figure out a full approach for your mascot launch. Was there just chaos in a meeting with people fighting over different mascot names only for someone to bang their hands on the table and yell, “ENOUGH! WE’RE JUST GOING TO NAME IT THE RAPTOR AND MOVE ON!”
Well, whatever the reason and whatever the name, this is a tough look for Booker. God help him if he ever ventures over to France on vacation and encounters a mime. I worry if he gets caught in an invisible box that mime may be on the business end of a haymaker.