Kawhi Leonard gets championship ring and win in return to Toronto
TORONTO -- Kawhi Leonard got his 2019 NBA championship ring in downtown Toronto Wednesday night before the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Raptors 112-92.
This was the first appearance in Toronto by the former Raptors star since he led the team to its first championship in franchise history in June.
Before the game, Leonard said he expected the crowd would boo him upon his return to the city, but the reaction was quite the opposite.
Fans inside Scotiabank Arena gave the finals MVP a standing ovation as he hit the floor and began shaking hands with his former teammates. Point guard and Raptors veteran Kyle Lowry had the honour of presenting Leonard with the ring, in an understated ceremony at centre court.
The Raptors opened their 2019-2020 season at home on Oct. 22. The largest championship ring in NBA history was handed out to the Raptors players, coaches and front office staff during a pregame ceremony.
During the ceremony, fans watched as a championship banner was unveiled from the rafters after the rings were handed out.
The defending champions started their new season with a few changes to the roster.
About a month after leading the Raptors to their first NBA title in franchise history, Leonard signed with the Clippers as a free agent, as did Danny Green with the Lakers.
At the time, tribute videos, murals and billboards were made in the wake of Leonard’s departure across Canada. As well, he received a warm welcome during a pre-season game in Vancouver.
Speaking on the court on before the game Wednesday, Leonard reflected on his time in Toronto and said he had flashbacks while driving back to Scotiabank Arena.
“Obviously it was different here – playing for a whole country, they are all going for this one team – the ride was fun,” he said. “I had a great time last year with the coaching staff, front office and the players.”
“It was a great experience.”
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Leonard also took a moment to thank the fans in Toronto and all across the country.
“They were amazing last year, they rolled with us through the ups and downs. We were down every series pretty much, except the championship and they stuck through it with us and they brought great energy to every game and they helped us.”