TORONTO — Upon hearing the news, his Toronto Raptors teammates swarmed him pre-game in a mob of unbridled joy.
His former teammate DeMar DeRozan, made a point to find him during warm-ups to offer his own congratulations.
And even superstar rapper Drake, and his son Adonis, took the time to wish him well.
Fred VanVleet was an all-star.
He was named a reserve to the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, becoming the eighth different player in Raptors franchise history to be selected to the midseason showcase, and just the fourth undrafted player in the modern NBA era to be named an all-star.
"I think he really truly deserved it not only for what he's done this year, I know that's what the award is specifically for, but for historically what he's done on top of that," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse of VanVleet's all-star selection. "I think it's an awesome achievement. I mean, it's an incredible, incredible story that just keeps getting better."
VanVleet was more reflective on his journey and how it led to the moment.
"Just training camp as an undrafted rookie," he said. "Just literally being 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."
While VanVleet was getting his well-deserved due before the game, it was the collective effort of all the Raptors' key players that led Toronto to victory against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.
VanVleet was one of four Raptors who scored at least 21 points as Toronto topped the Bulls 127-120 in overtime at Scotiabank Arena.
Pascal Siakam finished with a team-high 25 points and 13 rebounds in what was the Raptors' (27-23) fourth straight win, and their fifth in six tries.
"These are character-building (games) and we need to build," said Nurse. "So I'm OK as long as we can come out on the right side and learn some things. That's what matters."
Chicago’s (32-19) two all-stars, DeRozan and Zach LaVine combined for 43 points. Nikola Vucevic led all scorers with 30.
Gary Trent Jr. drilled a three-pointer with 16.5 seconds left to play in the extra frame to put Toronto up 125-120. The Raptors guard poured in 16 points, ending his streak of 30-point-plus games at five straight, a record he shares with DeRozan.
The Raptors were leading 87-81 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls managed to tie the game up, 112-112, on a DeRozan fadeaway from mid-range with 47.8 seconds left in the period.
On the ensuing Toronto possession, VanVleet appeared to dribble the ball off his knee and, after a Chicago challenge, it was ruled he turned the ball over.
The turnover proved costly as Vucevic was able to score as the shot clock expired to put the Bulls up, 114-112. However, thanks to a Scottie Barnes' putback on the other end of the floor, the Raptors were able to send the game to overtime.
The Raptors collected 22 offensive rebounds on the night, leading to them getting more possessions and more shots up. They attempted 113 field goals to just the 90 that Chicago managed to put up.
Both Barnes and Trent appeared to injure themselves Thursday. Barnes had a noticeable limp and asked to be subbed out with 1:10 left to play in overtime, and Trent took a knee-on-knee hit at the end of regulation. Both players managed to return to the game before its conclusion.
Raptors centre Khem Birch returned to the lineup after a 10-game absence due to a nose fracture he suffered during a Jan. 14 game against the Detroit Pistons.
He played less than five minutes in his return.
Chicago was without starting point guard Lonzo Ball and key reserve Alex Caruso, both out with injuries.
Next up for the Raptors is an encounter with the Atlanta Hawks Friday at home.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2022.
Steven Loung, The Canadian Press