On the back of Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
It has been a long, heart breaking journey for the Toronto Raptors and their fan base. They have endured 24 seasons 1,920 regular games, 18 playoff series and 100 playoff games before finally advancing to the NBA finals. Years of knocking on the door step of the NBA finals, to only be destroyed by the great LeBron James.
And who could forget the number of all time great Raptors players who left the first chance they could. Damon Stoudamire, 1995 Rookie of the Year with the Raptors demanded a trade just 3 years into his promising career.
Arguably the most famous Raptors player ever, Vince Carter gave the country his all in the time he spent there, putting the team on the map with his signature Slam Dunk Contest win in 2000, and his intense playoff series against Allen Iverson in 2001, which resulted in a loss. Carter would also demand a trade in 2004, and Toronto would lose its only hope at relevancy in the NBA, and breaking hearts across the country.
The Raptors misfortune with star players would rear its ugly head once more in the summer of 2010 when Chris Bosh left to team up with the D Wade and LeBron James in south beach. The Raptors fan base would have to sit back and watch Bosh go to 4 straight NBA finals while their franchise hit the reset button once again.
But somehow Kawhi Leonard’s historic playoff run has wiped away all 24 years worth of heartbreaks and misery of the Raptors hopeful. Leonard’s playoffs has featured it all. An accumulation of clutch shots, like his Game 7 Buzzer beater that found the bottom of the net to knock if the 76ers in the Semifinals, and his massive left handed poster dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 6 of the Conference Finals.
Leonard has reminded the league that he still is the best two way player in the game as he consistently dropped 35+ points, while playing lock down defense on the opposing teams best player in crunch time. Just take a look at MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo who struggled mightily when matched up with Leonard.
It is safe to say that in just his first season with the Raptors, Leonard has already cemented himself as the greatest player in franchise history, as he has accomplished what no previous Raptors great could. Not DeMar DeRozan, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, nor Chris Bosh reached the heights Leonard has. They never reached the NBA finals in a Raptors Jersey, never involved in discussion for best player in the NBA. Whether he is able to bring home the NBA championship to Toronto or not, whether he resigns with the Raptors or leaves like the rest of the great players in team history, what Leonard has accomplished this postseason has set him in rarified air forever in Canada. There is only one way to describe Leonard from here on out. Call him the G.O.A.T in the 6.