Like most fans, I was in complete shock on June 26, 2014. This was the night the Raptors selected an unknown player out of Brazil with the 20th pick in the draft. The shock penetrated the homes of casual sports fans and permeated throughout the NBA front office. Adam Silver’s brutal mispronunciation still rings in my ears like an unapologetic, unrelenting jackhammer. With Mitch McGary, Rodney Hood, Clint Capela and a plethora of other notable names left on the board, I couldn’t help but ask:
Why, why, for God’s sake, why?
That entire night I sat on my bed and sulked. My friends would ask me what was wrong. I would reply that the Raptors just drafted Rafael Araujo’s even-lesser-known twin. I was pretty miserable for a while. Then, I came across quotes from various sports media outlets, referring to Bruno as “The Brazilian Kevin Durant”. Obviously, this piqued my interest.
After looking at pictures of his gargantuan wingspan and freakishly lanky figure, coupled with my trust in Masai Ujiri, I decided that I was going to have faith in Bruno Caboclo. It was, after all, Masai who destroyed James Dolan in a trade so one-sided that it reminded me of the infamous Vince Carter trade. Trading Andrea Bargnani for a hotdog would be a steal for the team that received the hotdog, so receiving a first round pick is pure wizardry. I thought that Bruno could turn out to be a worthwhile project. Besides, what’s not to like? He’s adorable!
He may be adorable, but there’s one thing he will never be: a basketball player.
Bruno Caboclo is now the official mascot of the Toronto Raptors. I mean, technically he’s not. However, that’s what he is, and I’m pretty sure this would qualify him as the highest paid mascot ever. The fans may love him, but Bruno Caboclo is making over $1.5 million for the 2016-17 season. His contribution is occasionally providing entertainment as a lovable, goofy personality, much to the delight of the clamoring crowd in a blowout game.
Bruno Caboclo has gotten worse at basketball since he was drafted. It may seem like an implausible claim, but his three-point percentage and field-goal percentage have both gone down since last year. This, in both limited minutes in the NBA and plentiful minutes in the d-league. The glimmer of hope that he will ever turn into an NBA-quality rotation player is dwindling. Every time Bruno steps on the court, the gleam that once shone bright in Masai Ujiri’s eyes becomes a shade darker.
There are plenty of reasons to like Bruno Caboclo. He’s funny, charismatic, and he seems to truly love the city of Toronto. However, if I was getting paid $1.5 million, I would wake up every morning and write a 500-word pandering love letter to the city that drafted me. As easy as it is to enjoy Bruno Caboclo’s tenure on the Raptors, all I can think about is that he’s getting paid more than I could possibly imagine in my wildest dreams to get progressively worse at his job.
Of course, I don’t blame Bruno for being selected, and I don’t blame Masai Ujiri either. I don’t blame the coaching staff, nor his teammates. Nobody is to blame for the Bruno Caboclo fiasco; however, that won’t stop me from being cynical about the entire ordeal. After all, I’m a lifelong Raptors fan. I’m used to disappointment.