The Toronto Raptors lifted their first NBA Championship – with head coach Nick Nurse carving out history.

A 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Finals clinched a 4-2 series victory that took the title outside of the United States for the very first time.

It also made Nurse – formerly the boss at Derby Rams, Birmingham Bullets, Manchester Giants, London Towers and Brighton Bears – the first head coach to capture the British Basketball League crown before matching the feat in the NBA.

A world away from his original plan in college to become an accountant, driving the team bus in Derby and doing everything from washing the kits and organising tickets and everything else in Brighton, where his closest brush with the high life was the single game he persuaded Dennis Rodman to feature in upon his exit from the Celebrity Big Brother house.

The Raptors win it all Photo: Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images


“I would hope it inspires some people that are in those situations to keep working,” said Nurse, whose assistants include ex-Giants forward Phil Handy and Scotsman Alex McKechnie.

“I always say that all those jobs meant the world to me at the time, right, winning with Birmingham in ’96, winning with Rio Grande Valley, whatever year that was. And those games and jobs meant the world to me and I loved all those jobs.

“I think you can’t do very good work if you don’t love what you’re doing. I just, I don’t know, and I never really got discouraged. I didn’t really care at the level I was coaching at, I was just trying to learn and get better. That’s it.”

The Raptors’ triumph over the reigning champions – spurred by Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the Finals – also made OG Anunoby the first UK-born player to win an NBA title even though the forward, recovering from an appendectomy, did not play a single minute in the playoffs.

While Masai Ujiri, whose career took in stops like Derby, Solent and Hemel, becomes the first British-born team president with a key role in plotting the Raptors rise.

Nurse, celebrating with champagne, could scarcely believe this rollercoaster ride, after he was seen as a gamble when handed the role last June.

“It was a heck of a 12 months,” he said. “And I don’t know, I just try to take things as they come. Didn’t look too far ahead. Obviously when we made some a additions to the team, we thought we could be good, but we had no idea what the health status was and all those things.

“Again, you just got to go take the guys you got and go play and manage it the best you can. And then look at the opponents and try to figure out a way to beat them. It was a great group, though. They really played together. I thought they really fought hard, they were tough-minded. They didn’t seem like this was wearing on them at all.

“Two months of playoff basketball, they never seemed tired to me. Mentally they kept wanting film sessions, they kept wanting to walk through things, they kept wanting to keep learning and improving. And I think that was a big key because we had to do that in the playoff run because we really hadn’t had all that much time together.”

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