Is Kawhi Leonard already the greatest Toronto Raptor ever?
Did anyone else watch that game seven last night? What an absolute classic. I’ve always been more of a baseball guy myself, but I decided to tune into game seven last night between the Raptors and the 76ers, and boy am I ever glad that I did! This was one of the most thrilling games of basketball that I’ve seen.
Kawhi Leonard, the former San Antonio Spur put on an absolute clinic, dropping 41 points in the game. Everyone else on the Raptors scored 51 points, meaning Leonard was responsible for 44.6 percent of the team’s points. The man has ice in his veins!
According to STATS, that set an NBA record for the highest percentage of a team’s points in a Game seven victory. So hats off to Kawhi there!
And I know this might be tough to wrap your head around, but hear this: Kawhi’s buzzer-beater was the first in NBA HISTORY to win a Game seven. Incredible.
With Kawhi’s domination in the postseason thus far, along with his stellar regular season, this actually does raise the question: Is Kawhi Leonard already the greatest Toronto Raptor ever?
Let’s get right down to brass tacks here, and eliminate every Raptor from this conversation whose names aren’t DeMar DeRozan, Chris Bosh, and Vince Carter. You could perhaps throw in Jose Calderon, but we’re not going to here. Sorry, Jose.
The Raptors playoff history isn’t the sparkliest, with it being mostly comprised of long demoralizing losses. The farthest that the Raptors ever made it was in the 2015-2016 season when they met their fate against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team backed by Lebron James that was far and away the Eastern Conference favourite.
Everyone was cautiously optimistic, as going against King James in his prime was obviously no easy feat. And just as everyone saw coming, the Raptors were smitten by the Cavs in six games.
That Cavs team was something special, though, going on to win the championship against the defending Golden State Warriors, a team that had just gone 73-9 in the regular season. Lebron and the Cavs went on the come back from a 3-1 series deficit, eventually dethroning the Warriors of their title, until the next year.
Vince Carter, who is somehow still playing at a professional level at the age of 42, brought the expansion-era Raptors to three consecutive postseasons. One of which ended with a game seven loss to the Allen Iverson-led 76ers, who eventually lost to the Shaq-Kobe era Lakers in the finals.
It’s very worth noting that Vince Carter had an extremely similar situation unfold in his game seven against the 76ers, but he was unable to do what Kawhi did.
And then there’s DeMar DeRozan, the man who loved being a Raptor more than anyone else ever had. DeMar, a devoted and well-balanced player, who stuck by the franchise when seemingly no one else would, was eventually traded away to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard in what appeared to be a trade that broke the player’s heart.
DeMar was essential for the growth of the Raptors, that’s no doubt. But after five consecutive postseasons without reaching the NBA finals, it seemed like management said enough was enough, shipping away DeRozan while also giving coach Dwane Casey, who had just won NBA coach of the year, the axe.
Out of those four players, who has the right to say that they’re the greatest Raptor of all time? While I believe it may be too soon to say that Kawhi is the greatest Raptor, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that he’s had the best season any Raptor has ever had.
The stats are there to back it up. And symbolically, the image of a buzzer beater hopping from rim to rim, and finally sinking into the hoop for the win is one that will be ingrained in the minds of Toronto sports fans for years to come.
Since I wasn’t alive to see the Blue Jays win either of their World Series titles, that Kawhi Leonard shot joins Jose Bautista’s ALCS Game 5 bat flip as my favourite moment in Toronto sporting history.
What do you think? Is Kawhi the G.R.O.A.T? Let us know in the comments below.