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Meet the Toronto Raptors coach from B.C. who helped pave the way to victory

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-06-16 Clare Hennig
a group of people in front of a crowd: Jon Lee helped the team make history by winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, the first time a Canadian team has won the championship. © Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press Jon Lee helped the team make history by winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, the first time a Canadian team has won the championship.

The Toronto Raptors had some help from a B.C. man in their historic NBA championship win this past week.

Jon Lee is the team's strength and conditioning coach, training closely with the athletes. Before that, he was a high school teacher in Richmond.

When he quit his job as a teacher and moved to Toronto a decade ago, NBA victory was just a dream.

"It's surreal," Lee said. "This is what you dream of doing [when] you go into the business."

He helped the team make history by winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, the first time a Canadian team has won the championship.

"It's been a great ride," Lee said, over the phone.

"Everybody is just so proud, this was Canada's team."

Lee moved to Canada from the Philippines as a child.

While he grew up with a love for basketball, he didn't pursue it as a career until later.

He got a business degree from the University of British Columbia and then turned to teaching at Richmond Secondary School, where he worked for over a decade.

During that time, he made his debut as a ball boy with the Vancouver Grizzlies where he met key people in the pro basketball world. 

"When I was a high school teacher, one of my friends asked me to be the manager of the Canadian men's national team back in 1999 — that was Jay Triano, he worked for the Grizzlies at the same time I was there," Lee said.

"That got me my start working with top athletes."

'Jumped at the chance'

Moving over to the Raptors required a leap of faith. Lee had to quit his day job and relocate to Toronto.

"An opportunity came when Jay Triano was the head coach at the Raptors and asked if I wanted to work together again and I jumped at the chance," said Lee.

He's now been with the Raptors for 10 years.

For Lee, his dreams of an NBA championship have been fulfilled, but it's not over yet.

"Imagine how good this tastes and imagine how good it's going to taste next year," he said.

"[Our win] is going to settle in and we're going to celebrate for a little bit, but then we're back to work."

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