Wilfrid Laurier University graduate Soheil Jamshidi is no stranger to the social media spotlight. As community manager for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, Jamshidi serves as the voice of the team's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Laurier Campus magazine caught up with Jamshidi following the Raptors' historic championship win over the Golden State Warriors to discuss his role with the team and the playoff run that captivated Canada.
Q: The past Raptors season was certainly a wild ride. Have you caught your breath yet?
A: I wouldn’t say I’ve had a chance to really breathe – yet. Our playoff runs during the last two seasons ended in May, which gave me some time to unwind before the NBA Draft, free agency and Summer League. But this season went right to the end, followed by the championship parade, the NBA Draft, the NBA Awards and Kawhi Leonard’s free agency, so it hasn’t really stopped.
Q: Speaking of Kawhi, how have Raptors fans reacted to his decision to leave Toronto?
A: The initial news definitely made an impact and I think it’s fair that fans feel upset and want to air their pain and disappointment. However, I think it’s important to remember that these guys are more than basketball players: they’re human, too. Kawhi’s decision is what’s best for him and his family – and I get that. Working in a position like mine, you get to know the guys as people, not just players, and you can’t help but want them to be happy, wherever that is. Kawhi will be missed, but I thank him. He did his job and he doesn’t owe anyone anything. Time heals all wounds and, when Kawhi returns to Toronto as a Clipper, I think he will be welcomed back with open arms and a standing ovation. And we’re still champions. Let’s not forget about that, or the 15 other guys on the team that contributed.
Q: Was there a moment you knew the Raptors were going to win the NBA championship?
A: I knew we were going to win as we were getting off the plane in San Francisco for Game 6 of the finals. When the guys get off the plane, they don’t usually show a lot of emotion. They’re focusing on the game. But not Kawhi before Game 6. He was smiling. I had only seen that smile a few times during the playoffs and every time I did Kawhi went on to play a big game, like Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Milwaukee. Kawhi was really relaxed during the pre-game practice that night in Milwaukee – he was having fun, telling jokes and even playing to the cameras. That night, he went on to drop 35 points and we won. Getting off that plane in San Francisco I thought, 'If that’s what Kawhi does in a Game 5 situation, I can’t imagine what he’ll do in Game 6 with a shot at the title.' That’s when I told my manager, “We’re not losing.”
- Soheil Jamshidi
Q: You were in the building when the Raptors won the championship. What was that experience like?
A: It didn’t hit me until the buzzer went off. I thought, 'Wait. Oh my God – the buzzer just went off! Did we just win?' My brain quickly went into work mode because I had so much content to publish, from all the pre-planned content to in-the-moment stuff. I had a job to do and, in that moment, that was the most important my job would ever be. When things slowed down a couple of hours after the game, we went to the player photo shoots with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. That was my first chance to see and hold it. It was heavier than I thought it would be – that’s what they all say about the trophy – and all I could think was, 'Holy crap! I’m really holding the NBA championship trophy!'
Q: What kind of experience did you have at the championship parade in Toronto?
A: There were people everywhere by 8:30 a.m. and the parade wasn’t scheduled to start for another two hours. I was thinking to myself, 'There are a lot of people here already.' It made me a bit nervous, to be honest. The buses were delayed and it felt like forever before the guys arrived at Nathan Phillips Square, where I was stationed on stage. I couldn’t use my phone because the networks couldn’t supply enough data to three million people within five to 10 square blocks. There was nothing I could do other than kick back, relax and watch everything unfold. It was surreal: the people going by, the activity, helicopters flying overhead – like something out of a movie. But when the guys finally did arrive, I’ll never forget the way the fans went crazy. They did anything to get a better view: ripping banners down, climbing up audio towers, scaffolding and production trucks. I thought to myself, 'This championship means something to this city; people have waited a long time to celebrate this.' In that moment it became real. We were champions.
Q: You've earned praise for your work with the Raptors social media accounts. How did you find your voice?
A: When I got hired for this job, my manager stressed the importance of being authentic and being myself. That’s one thing I really appreciate about the Raptors brand. They let me really run with being myself. Ninety per cent of the time whatever I post is what my brain is thinking at that time. If it’s authentic and it won’t offend anyone, I know I can post it. That approach really resonates with our brand’s strongest demographic of 15- to 35-year-old fans. If you walk around the streets of Toronto and listen to how our fans talk, you’ll find it’s how I talk – and that translates well on social media. Followers get my voice and that helps people connect with the team. They can come to our social media accounts and say, “Hey, they’re just like me.”
Q: Do you have a standout social media post from this season?
A: My favourite Twitter post was from Game 3 of the NBA Finals. We were headed to Oakland for the series’ first game at Oracle Arena after playing two games in Toronto. I posted a picture of the guys on the Golden Gate Bridge – and Golden State Warriors’ fans roasted it. Apparently you don’t take the Golden Gate Bridge to get to Oakland, you take the Bay Bridge. You’re going to make mistakes in social media, nobody’s perfect. But during the game I kept thinking about how I could come back at this and come out on top. We ended up winning the game when no one expected us to, so in the final scoring post of the night I tweeted, 'Takin’ whatever bridge we want to SF. Up 2-1.' It was my way of saying, ‘Make fun of us all you want; we still won the game.’
Q: It's obvious that you love your job. Do you ever stop and pinch yourself?
A: Of course! I feel very fortunate that I get to work for a team that I grew up watching. I pinch myself every day that I am lucky enough to do this.
Look for an extended Q&A with Soheil Jamshidi in the upcoming fall-winter print edition of Laurier Campus magazine.