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Toronto Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jonny Lee. (Screengrab from Toronto Raptors FB Page “A day in the life with our award-winning strength and conditioning coach Jonny Lee.)

The Pinoy behind Toronto’s championship

By Heidi Nicodemus

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

Pinoy coach Jon Lee was the team’s strength and conditioning coach, training closely with the athletes, but before that, he was a just 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.

Lee enthused: It’s surreal. 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.

Over the phone, Lee remarked: It’s been a great ride.

And 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.

Lee revealed he was merely a high school teacher when one of his friends asked him to be the manager of the Canadian men’s national team back in 1999—that was Jay Triano—and he worked for the Grizzlies at the same time Lee was there.

“That got me my start working with top athletes,” he said.

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

He said an opportunity came when Jay Triano was the head coach of the Raptors and he asked Lee if he wanted to work together again. The former teacher jumped at the chanceand he’s now been with the Raptors for the past ten years.

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

He imagines how good this tastes (referring to the championship they won) and imagine how good it’s going to taste next year.

He ended “(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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