After a daring trade, a few close-calls and an NBA championship trophy it looks like Toronto is going to say goodbye to Kawhi Leonard who, according to multiple reports, is set on signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The news comes after a month-long bout of post-championship speculation on where the two-time Finals MVP would end up choosing as his next destination.
Many people, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, took to social media just hours after the news first broke to say their goodbyes and best wishes to the player who led the Toronto Raptors and Canada to their first-ever NBA championship.
“Maybe it was the jacket. Maybe he didn’t like the jacket but you know what Kawhi, you brought us a championship and that is important in this city,” said Tory, who referenced a Raptors blazer he wore frequently during the city’s playoff run in a video posted to Twitter. “We haven’t had too many of those in recent times and it is going to get us into a positive wavelength where we are going to have more.”
Tweets with #ThanksKawhi and #ByeKawhi started trending heavily. #ThankYouKawhi in particular became the most tweeted about hashtag in Canada, with over 22,000 tweets as of 3 p.m. on Saturday.
According to a source who spoke with The Associated Press, the Clippers will be acquiring Leonard as a free agent right after they pick up Oklahoma City Thunder player Paul George in what is considered a massive blockbuster trade for players and draft picks.
The source, who agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity due to none of the acquisitions being finalized, said that George will be traded for at least four first-round picks. The anonymous source also said that Leonard only made the decision to sign after the deal with George was reported to have gone through.
Not long after news broke of Leonard’s supposed departure, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were also serious contenders for Leonard alongside the Toronto Raptors and the Clippers, signed a two-year deal with Danny Green.
WATCH: Danny Green announces he’s signing with Lakers following Kawhi’s decision, says thank you to Toronto
“Kawhi’s made his decision, seems like the announcement is out now,” Green said in a video he posted to Twitter, confirming Leonard’s move to the Clippers.
“I had a great time in the city of Toronto, loved the organization, thank you guys, thank you to my teammates, thank you to the fans.”
ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski also cited NBA sources saying that Leonard and George would be recruited by the Clippers, who would not confirm this to Global News on Friday night.
Leonard, who is likely the most sought-after player in this year’s free agency, can be offered a US$142 million max contract from the Clippers, a deal he is expected to sign.
Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri wished both Leonard and Green well in a statement on Saturday.
“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA Championship. On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes. As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”
— With a file from the Associated Press and Jesse Ferreras