ROCKFORD – Fred VanVleet’s hometown is going all-in on its love and support for its first NBA champion. Especially after VanVleet shouted, “Rockford, this if for you baby!” at the end of his postgame interview following Toronto’s first NBA title in franchise history.
The Jurassic Park Rockford watch party packed approximately 6,000 people at the City Market Pavilion in downtown Rockford, setting off a huge celebration when the final buzzer sounded.
“We got a champion,” Kurliss Dismuke exclaimed. “In this city. There’s no excuses for anybody to make it out of here. There’s no excuse.”
Dismuke was one of the more emotional fans in the crowd of 6,000, as he dropped to his knees and wiped tears from his eyes following the Raptors’ clincher. Other fans also appreciate what VanVleet means to the city.
“I’m so excited,” Davon Baker said. “To open the door and believe in something different. There’s so much bad going on, for us to believe in something different, it’s a blessing.”
Baker says VanVleet offers hope to those who may have previously not had any, or had lost theirs. VanVleet overcame many obstacles to get where he is, literally giving blood, sweat and tears to help the Raptors win the title.
“He’s a tough basketball player and he’s just really talented,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said. “But off the court, he’s high-integrity, high-character, compassionate and never forgets where he came from.”
He came from Rockford, and he let the world know it following the biggest moment of his basketball career.
For our extended coverage of Fred VanVleet’s 1st NBA title and Rockford’s reaction to it, click on the video above.