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

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Northwest Regional Airport says ridership extremely low amid COVID-19

The airport has enacted enhanced sanitary measures and reduced flights

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

Most Read