ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The City of Rockford was still buzzing the day after hometown hero Fred VanVleet helped the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA Championship on Thursday night.
Some spent the day trying to get their hands on new merchandise to show off their pride.
9-year-old Natalia Raymer joined 6,000 others at the Rockford City Market Pavilion to watch Game Six on a giant screen. On Friday, she was waiting in line for the official Fred VanVleet Store, at 328 E State Street, to open.
“Me and him watched the show last night and he’s a big fan, and we want to surprise him with it for Father’s Day,” she said.
“They’ll probably sell out right now, as soon as we open the door,” said Airmis Clark, CEO of the FVV Shop. “We don’t have nothing like this around here. The NBA does it, but it’s hard to get your hands on those, so I feel like we need to do something for the community, so they can feel a part of the championship.”
Clark says he spoke with VanVleet Friday morning, and said the Auburn High School grad is thankful for all of the support this season.
“He said it was legendary,” Clark said. “He said he wasn’t expecting that type of support, and that means the world to him. Fred is a real homebody. He loves everything about Rockford, so everybody coming out here to support him meant a lot to him.”
Down the street, the Rockford Art Deli (402 E State Street) collaborated with VanVleet for an “815 Inspired” shirt design.
The Art Deli’s Britney Lindgren said, “So this is our, obviously, ‘We the 815,’ but being that his number is 23, two-plus-three is five, so we felt like that was a good tribute to him, but also where he comes from.”
“We need to do a celebration in Fred’s honor when he gets back home,” said Nick Povalitis, Director of Sports Development for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (RACVB). “We’re in the early phases of planning the celebrations of honoring his NBA Championship. So, there’ll be more details to follow, but we’re hoping sometime very soon, but we’re still in the initial planning stages.”
The shirts were sold out quickly but the Rockford Art Deli just released their shirts this afternoon. Those are selling for $25.