COMMENTARY | Tyler Hansbrough earned a reputation during his time at North Carolina as being a talented player, but one that also had a nasty streak to him. A big part of him garnering this rep came once he played with a face mask after Gerald Henderson broke his nose.
Still, despite a broken nose, it didn't prevent Hansbrough from playing in the postseason for North Carolina.
During his pro career, Hansbrough hasn't been the same kind of scorer, but he has earned the reputation of being an instigator and someone who can clean the glass with the best of them.
Heck, he drew the ire of Raptors fans last season when he mixed it up with Jonas Valanciunas while he was playing for the Indiana Pacers.
However, on Friday night in Toronto, fans in the Air Canada Centre officially fell in love with his game due to a big dose of toughness and testicular fortitude.
Toronto has always been known as a hockey town that loved basketball players like Charles Oakley, Quincy Acy and Reggie Evans because of their physical style of player. When Hansbrough went to the locker room in the first half to get stitched up only to return to give the team a much-needed spark in the second half, he may have sealed his reputation as a fan-favorite here in Toronto.
But it's not just the fans here in Toronto that have become fans of Hansbrough's game.
"He puts his hard hat on and goes into every game with that kind of mentality," Rudy Gay told me after the loss to the Miami Heat.
Gay isn't the only teammate that appreciates the grit and toughness Hansbrough provides the team with.
"That's him. He's the definition of heart," DeMar DeRozan raved to me. "He's never going to lay down. You could hit him with a Mack truck and he's going to get back up and keep playing hard. That's why we appreciate him so much. He came in and he did his job."
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey also loves the toughness Hansbrough gives his team when he's on the court
"Tyler did a heck of a job warring in the paint," Casey boasted to me after Hansbrough corralled a team-high 12 rebounds.
If you were to scan the stats from the game the 0-2 from the field won't scream out that he had an impact. However, in only 25 minutes of burn, Hansbrough had a team-high +/- of +13 and he was a terror on the glass corralling 12 rebounds.
Oh, and he also came back into the game after getting two stitches to his left eye in the first half.
While talking with Hansbrough after the game his left eye was puffy, swollen and the two stitches were visible, yet he brushed off any talk about his eye.
"I guess I just got scraped," Hansbrough told the media. "It's just a couple of stitches. I should be fine."
Any professional athlete in Toronto that brushes off getting stitched up and playing with a swollen eye as just a scrape will earn the admiration of fans.
Throw into the mix that Hansbrough plays a winning brand of basketball, and it's clear he will be a fan-favorite here as long as he's playing for the Raptors.
Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has been covering the Toronto Raptors with media passes since the 2007-08 season. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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