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

White Rock funds cultural activities moved online by COVID-19

Museum, community orchestra receive production grants

Surrey council sets new rules for Good Citizen of the Year award

Candidates have more hurdles to jump before getting nominated for the prestigious local title

Lottery win ‘doesn’t feel real’ for White Rock man

$75,000 BC/49 ticket purchased at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre

EXPLORE SURREY: Tee up some adventures in the city

Also: A walk through Surrey’s public art collection

DFO says 5 aggrieved B.C First Nations were consulted on fisheries plan

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations calls response ‘a sham,’ adding DFO never incorporates their views

Friends do ‘amazing’ home makeover for retired police officer

Pitt Meadows RCMP veteran was away getting treatment for PTSD

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Pitt Meadows woman gives birth on in-laws’ driveway

Frédérique Gagnon new son is appropriately named after Norse trickster god

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

UPDATE: Two dead after fishing boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

VIDEO: B.C. community rallies to save snared eagle

Revelstoke climber scales tree to save the raptor

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Most Read