Roy Green: Will he stay?
The Larry O’Brien NBA championship trophy? Cool, but no longer critical mass for Toronto Raptors fans. The 2019 NBA Finals MVP trophy? Getting closer. This one belongs to Kawhi Leonard and you’re likely still cheering.
That is unless you have managed to avoid news (sports and other) entirely since the night of June 14 in Oakland, Calif., when and where the Raptors, led by Kawhi, shoved aside the dynastic Golden State Warriors and claimed NBA supremacy for ‘We the North.’
WATCH: Raptors fans anxious over Kawhi Leonard’s free agency rumours
It’s been Kawhi madness across Canada ever since.
A free agent, it is Kawhi Leonard’s decision where he suits up in the coming season. Remain with the Raptors or sign with a U.S. franchise, the Lakers or Clippers most likely.
For Canadian basketball fans, Kawhi holds the key to a championship repeat — a twofer. And twofers are rare. For the most recent twofer in what is generally accepted as major North American sports, Canadian fans must roll back the calendar to 1992 and ’93, when Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays claimed back-to-back World Series wins.
NHL hockey? 1987 and ’88 saw the Edmonton Oilers and a certain number 99 skate off with a Stanley Cup double. The Oilers had also pulled it off in ’84 and ’85, before being interrupted by the 1986 Montreal Canadiens.
What, though, accounts for this national Kawhi magic? It’s more than the fact he is one of the greatest basketball players of this generation. It is more than retaining Kawhi Leonard providing the Raptors with a realistic run at a championship repeat.
The Kawhi Leonard fandemonium is also about a young man of great character and poise. A leader by example loved by his teammates. Kawhi’s calmness under pressure is commented on repeatedly. Such a moment followed Raptors losses in Games 1 and 2 of their conference championship series in Milwaukee against the Bucks.
“Where do the Raptors go from here?” a journalist poked. Kawhi replied, “Toronto for Game 3.”
On both sides of the longest undefended border, the debate rages and often self-appointed experts claim to have insider knowledge of Kawhi’s destination for the 2019/20 season. Some declare it’s a done deal and number 2 will suit up for the Lakers. Others insist the Clippers. The California teams have certainly been making their case publicly. The Raptors, meanwhile, have mostly kept their own counsel and behaved in a manner which mirrors KL’s personality.
Whether Kawhi Leonard opts for the most familiar and decides on his home state of California, or chooses to remain with the Raptors, undeniable is that this young man has brought Canada to its feet cheering in a manner usually reserved for the greatest stars of our accepted national game, hockey.
So, whatever the outcome, thank you Kawhi for leading the terrific ride to the pinnacle of the NBA. And we’d sure like you to do it again.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.
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