Fred VanVleet bet on himself in 2016, refusing two-way contract offers from teams in the late second round of the NBA draft and instead betting that he could earn a fully guaranteed contract in training camp. That bet paid off on Thursday night, and VanVleet hit big, as the 27-year-old Raptors point guard was selected to the 2021-22 NBA All-Star team for the first time in his career.
VanVleet becomes just the fourth undrafted player in the modern era to be named an All-Star and just the eighth Raptor ever to get the nod, joining Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Antonio Davis, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, and most recently teammate Pascal Siakam, who will hope to be selected by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace the injured Kevin Durant in the game in Cleveland on February 20th.
“I’m just proud, humbled and honoured to be selected, first and foremost,” VanVleet said after the Raptors 127-120 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. “Obviously, you guys know how I feel about myself and the will and confidence that I’ve had to have over the course of my life and my career. To be recognized like that is a special moment for me and my family and all the people that have been part of the journey along the way.”
But VanVleet wasn’t the only one celebrating his achievement on Thursday night. Toronto Raptors’ fans, players around the NBA, and celebrities around the world congratulated VanVleet on social media. Starting with his teammate, Siakam, who not only congratulated him on social media…
But was also the first person to run over and hug him when the selection was announced.
Shortly afterwards, former Raptor and one of VanVleet’s veterans when he entered the league, DeMar DeRozan, came over to VanVleet to congratulate him, appearing to tell him “I told you so!” as the two embraced at center court before the game.
Former Raptor and mentor Kyle Lowry, who VanVleet said “showed me the blueprint from day one” on how to succeed in the NBA, shouted out his former backcourt partner during his postgame press conference on Thursday evening, calling VanVleet “my young buck. All-Star.”
And he added to it with an Instagram story of the two of them embracing as Raptors, writing: “This is earned!”
And former Raptor Norman Powell, who called VanVleet his best friend after being traded by the Raptors to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr., congratulated him on Twitter with a picture of the two of them playing in the G League for the Raptors 905 back in 2016. An ode to how far they have both come.
Former NBA player and current TV analyst Kendrick Perkins joined in on the fun, calling VanVleet’s All-Star selection the “highlight of the night.” As Perk would say: Carry on…
And Raptors ambassador Drake, who was courtside at the game on Thursday, embraced VanVleet pregame and joined the small crowd (and his young son Adonis) in giving VanVleet a standing ovation when his selection was announced during the first time out of the night.
Drizzy also gave Frederico a special shout-out on Instagram, along with a style recommendation for the big game.
And to think about where it all started…
Well, not that far back. But back to where Fred VanVleet’s NBA journey all started, in a rented ballroom for what was supposed to be a draft-night celebration and ended with VanVleet standing up in front of family and friends after 30 teams passed on his name twice, telling them that “my story don’t end here. It’s just the beginning.”
VanVleet shared a story after the game about how he prayed every night inside Toronto’s Rosemount hotel during his training camp tryout with the Raptors in 2016 after going undrafted. He said he would literally be “on my knees praying before I went to bed to make the team. Like every night. Just pouring out everything I got during practice and workouts and things like that and just praying that somebody was seeing it.”
“It’s not really about praying that I’ve done my job, it’s more so for the recognition because I’ve always believed in myself but I’ve never had someone else believe in me like this.”
Finally, VanVleet is getting the recognition he deserves. From undrafted to NBA Champion to NBA All-Star, it turns out VanVleet was right all along: His story really is just getting started.