You can’t keep this Raptors fan Down Under

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Colin Treadwell travelled from Australia to watch his favourite team, the Toronto Raptors play in the NBA Finals. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

This memorable Toronto Raptors’ playoff run continues to captivate diehard and casual fans of the team around the world – it’s a bandwagon teeming with delight and excitement.

Along the way it’s made even the most rational people do irrational things — just watch any footage from inside Scotiabank Arena or outside in Jurassic Park or on the streets: people in hysterics, some jumping around, some hugging each other, others in tears. Or the people spending thousands of dollars to experience a basketball moment.

It was Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference final and Colin Treadwell’s beloved Toronto Raptors were zeroing in on victory, inching a little closer to a historic trip to the NBA Finals. That’s when his wife, Michelin Treadwell, looked at him and said the words he’ll never forget.

“She looked at me and said ‘if they make it, you need to go,'” Treadwell says. “She said ‘you might never get this chance again.’ She’s followed my pain over the years. I’m a very lucky man married to a wonderful woman.”

Treadwell lives in Melbourne, Australia. He’ll be inside Scotiabank Arena Sunday night for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. In fact, he’ll be sitting in a seat very close to where he watched about a dozen games during the 2004-05 season.

“It’ll be a homecoming for sure,” Treadwell said. “But those days I paid about $25 for that seat.”

A Raptors fan for the past 15 seasons because of one year spent working in Toronto in 2004, Treadwell has watched every game since. When the team knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks to advance the franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals, Treadwell started making plans to get back to the city and team he loves.

“I have a six-year-old daughter and I’ve never been away from her for 24 hours. I do the morning school drop-off and my wife does the pickup,” Treadwell explained.

There was that to deal with, and when he’d worked that out with his wife, then there were the flights, accommodations and a ticket to the game to manage.

“To complicate things, my manager was overseas at the time. I was desperately trying to get his approval,” Treadwell explained.

He was finally able to reach his manager and mobilized quickly.

The price of history

No amount was going to be too much for Treadwell – the trip isn’t cheap. He’s going to be staying in Toronto for 11 days and is attending Game 2 on Sunday night.

Add it all up: $1,600 for flights. $1,300 for the ticket. $1,200 for his accommodations.

“Obviously there will be some food and beverages in there too. It’ll be more than $5,000,” Treadwell said. “It’s costing a lot. And I’m questioning it every day, but you’ve only got one shot at this.”

Australian Raptors fan Colin Treadwell standing outside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

He’ll be in Toronto if there’s a fifth game in the series. So, buy another ticket?

“I’m not buying a Game 5 ticket or else a divorce might be in the cards,” he said. “But I’ll try and get to Jurassic Park during one of the games in Oakland or for Game 5.”

A fan through it all

Treadwell has been watching the Raptors for the last 15 years from his home in Melbourne — not the easiest endeavour considering the time difference. An 8 p.m. start in Toronto means it’s 10 a.m. for tip-off in Melbourne.

“The games are usually on in the morning and unfortunately, I’m at work at that time,” he said. “So, I stay off social media and watch the full replay at night.”

Not until the last few years was Treadwell able to even watch the games on TV, so he would sit at his desk frantically hitting the refresh button on the NBA website to get updates.

But during this playoff run, Treadwell couldn’t wait to watch the replay at home. He’s been in his downtown Melbourne office living and dying on every Raptors shot.

“My work colleagues know this, but when there’s about five minutes left to go, I will disappear from my desk and go somewhere to watch the finish,” Treadwell said.

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And when that magical Kawhi Leonard bounce-around-the-rim winner dropped, Treadwell celebrated in the streets of Melbourne.

“I actually went outside and watched in front of the building. And when it went in there was a bit of a scream down the street,” he said. “I’m a market account manager. I was able to step away from the desk. It’s a good thing I don’t operate heavy machinery.”

Now Treadwell’s screams will be joined by thousands more inside Scotiabank Arena on Sunday night.

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