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.

Just Posted

V.I. Raiders build ‘team environment’ at main camp

Nanaimo-based junior football team held camp this past weekend in Parksville

B.C. Ferries crew member’s medical emergency causes cancellations

One sailing from Horseshoe Bay and one sailing from Departure Bay cancelled Monday

Nanaimo Highland dancers ‘reel’ successful at nationals

Brigadoon dancers competed in Moncton, N.B., earlier this month

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Protection from spills falls short

Letter writer can’t imagine bringing bitumen oil to our ‘salmon sea’

Pirates have a chance to win pennant

Mid Island Pirates sweep Langley Blaze, four midweek games remain

Nanaimo tubber sets all-time record at bathtub race

Justin Lofstrom completes course in fastest-ever time

Islanders have new cancer screening option with $6.5 M diagnostic suite in Victoria

The Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite was unveiled at the BC Cancer Centre-Victoria

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Surrey court clerk files human rights complaint related to concussion

Deborah A. Ryane claims her employer discriminated against her on basis of mental disability

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read