Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard takes a selfie holding his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Fans in Canada and abroad mourn and reflect as Kawhi Leonard leaves the Raptors

The two-time NBA Finals MVP has reportedly signed with the LA Clippers

Though his jersey may have said Toronto, Raptors fans across the country — and beyond — are in mourning after star player Kawhi Leonard opted to leave Canada’s only NBA team.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP, who joined Toronto’s team just a year ago when he was traded by the San Antonio Spurs, has reportedly signed with the LA Clippers after carrying the Raptors to the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history last month.

William Om, a 27-year-old Raptors fan from Montreal, said it’s painful to see an elite player come to Canada only to leave after such a brief period.

“It hurts everybody, because of course we want to keep the best players,” he said in a phone interview.

But he said Leonard has won over his allegiance, regardless of where he takes his talents. In fact, Om said he’s already ordered a Clippers jersey with Leonard’s name on the back.

“What happened in Toronto, the way he played and everything, made me admire him a little more,” he said. ”No matter where he goes I’ll support him as a Clipper.”

But while some fans such as Om are grateful for Leonard’s efforts — #ThankYouKawhi was trending on Twitter Saturday after news of his departure broke — others are not so generous.

VIDEO: Stop-motion artist recreates Kawhi Leonard’s famous buzzer-beater

Andrew Ostasz, 33, of Hamilton said he was “disgusted” with the way Leonard left the team.

“The Raptors brought him here to give him every chance to succeed … basically turned him into the top three player in the league,” Ostasz said.

That sentiment was echoed by Manuel Lutz, who would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to watch the Raptors play from his home in southern Germany.

“As I heard it, I was furious. How could he do that?” the 40-year-old fan said.

But Lutz said his heart has softened in the time since the news came out. He now sees that it’s best to let Leonard go.

“There is a saying in Germany, ‘do not keep travellers from travelling’, and that’s the way I see the position right now,” he said.

As the acceptance begins to settle in, fans are turning their attention to all that Leonard brought to the Raptors in his short time in Toronto.

“I never thought this would happen in my lifetime. I never thought I’d see Toronto win a championship,” said Corey West, 38, of Halifax.

“You can’t really be mad because he gave you the one thing that we wanted,” West said. “It shouldn’t tarnish his legacy because he did the one thing no one else really could and that was to lead us to a championship — So I think he should be remembered fondly.”

READ MORE: ‘Build this man a statue’: Twitter responds to Leonard’s move to Clippers

—With files from Olivia Blackmore in Halifax, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Brenna Owen in Vancouver.

Lidia Abraha, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Expanded COVID-19 testing and collection centre opening at UFV

New Abbotsford service location will now conduct as many as 500 tests daily

Chilliwack man hoping to restore ‘59 Chevy with big lottery win

Hervey Blois, a retired veteran, says he’s ‘dumbstruck’ by $500,000 win on lottery website

‘Solitary’ filming in Harrison Hot Springs

Portions of East Sector Park closed until October 6

Abbotsford election candidate apologizes for 2012 comments about drug users

Former mayor Bruce Banman said drug users were criminals and should be locked up

UPDATE: Defence in Fraser Valley chicken abuse cases asks BC Supreme Court to drop the charges

Sofina Foods and Chilliwack company asking Justice for stay of proceedings in advance of jury trial

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Racist, homophobic graffiti prominent in downtown Maple Ridge

City councillors up late removing hateful message

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Most Read