Whereas he might need made the journey again residence to Los Angeles after only one season, the Kawhi Leonard shot that gained a playoff sequence stays one of many defining moments in Toronto Raptors historical past. Leonard was introduced in to take the Raptors over the hump, and his game-winner in Recreation 7 of their second-round matchup in opposition to the Philadelphia 76ers did simply that.
The Raptors wanted to make an enormous swing to beat their derisive “LeBronto” moniker and assert themselves as true contenders within the Japanese Convention, and Masai Ujiri determined to create a franchise-altering commerce that put the Raptors on a path to championship glory.
DeMar DeRozan and former Prime 10 choose Jakob Poeltl had been despatched to the San Antonio Spurs to be able to choose up Leonard, who was a free agent after the season. A calculated threat, positive, nevertheless it ended with one of the vital jaw-dropping pictures in league historical past.
Within the do-or-die Recreation 7, which passed off two years in the past on at the present time. Leonard took the Marc Gasol inbound, raced proper all the way down to the best baseline, shot a fadeaway over Joel Embiid, watched his shot bounce across the rim a number of instances as each America and Canada held their breath, and broke right into a uncommon match of jubilation after it discovered the underside of the online.
Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard made among the finest pictures in NBA historical past.
After dispatching the Orlando Magic within the first spherical, Leonard lifted the Raptors to a victory over a stacked lineup that included Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and Tobias Harris. They dispatched Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks within the subsequent spherical to make their first NBA Finals.
Sure, Toronto took down a Golden State Warriors group that noticed Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson go down with accidents, nevertheless it was Leonard, who averaged 30.5 factors and 9.1 rebounds per sport within the postseason, that led the Raptors to their first-ever title whereas ending the fabled Warriors dynasty. Not a foul few days on the workplace for Leonard.
The Raptors’ franchise has some ugly playoff defeats of their historical past, together with that notorious missed buzzer-beater in opposition to the 76ers by Vince Carter and LeBron James repeatedly pulverizing them within the postseason. For a second, all of these defeats had been washed away, as Leonard’s ice-cold confidence guided the Raptors to a miraculous win.
Kawhi was one step beneath an NBA mercenary. He got here, noticed, and conquered throughout his one-year stint in Toronto. Positive, he abandoned the Raptors after bringing them a title. nevertheless it was No. 2 who introduced Canada their first NBA title ever, and he’ll stay royalty in Toronto eternally due to his clutch performances.