Oh Raptor fans, how fickle you are.
Let’s go back to June 13, 2019. The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Championship. Not only that, but they were also the first Canadian team since 1993 to win Major Sports Championship. Sorry, I’m not counting the Grey Cup or the MLS.
The biggest reason? The number 1 reason? Kawhi Leonard.
In what was the boldest trade in Canadian history, Masai Ujuri traded DeMar Derozian, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was going to be a free agent that was unlikely to come back.
Now, to be fair, the Raptors handling of Leonard was nothing short of masterful. We learned the term “load management “. But Kawhi gave the Raptors swagger. That swagger led to the “shot” vs the 76ers. He was, and US media will debate this, the best player in the NBA last year.
The Toronto Raptors would not have won the NBA Championship without him. Period. End of story. And I will get into this in another post. But Kawhi Leonard is the most important Raptor in history. It was him, not Vince Carter, not Tracy McGrady that took the Raptors to the championship level. And we will, and are seeing the impact Kawhi had on basketball in this country.
But, my oh my, how quickly the Raptor fans forget.
Last night, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets last night. Yes, they blew a 3-1 series lead. But they were more than willing to take shots at Kawhi. Kawhi should have stayed in Toronto they said. This in spite of the fact the Raptors are also out of the playoffs.
How quickly the Raptor fans forget. So let’s look back.
Kawhi never hid his desire to play in Southern California. He bought a house in San Diego. He was a Lakers fan growing up. It would have taken a lot for him to come back to Toronto. If you listen to most Raptor discussion last year, this was known.There was hope. Real hope. Remember the plane following his car, allegedly, from Pearson airport to downtown Toronto.
But this is what it came down too is this. Kawhi, like Lebron before him, wanted his players on his team. The players have the power in the NBA. He wanted Paul George. The Raptors were hesitant. They couldn’t make it work. Kawhi moved on.
But let me say it again. The Raptors would not have won the NBA Championship without Kawhi Leonard.
While it didn’t work for Kawhi and the Clippers, guess what? It didn’t work out for the Raptors.They are still missing that superstar.
But, the story last night, and what most Canadians are excited about is, Jamal Murray. The Kingston Ontario product was THE STAR last night. His 40 points last night outscored Kawai, Paul George, and Lou Williams 24 last night. He now has 4 of the Denver Nuggets top 10 playoff performances in their history.
He is quite possibly this generation’s Steve Nash. The new face of Canadian basketball.
Canadians and Raptor fans should be happy for Jamal Murray.It’s a great story. But they also shouldn’t forget what Kawhi Leonard did for the franchise and this country. That would be fickle.