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Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard recalls his text to Kyle Lowry after he got traded

Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Raptors

Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry completed a long championship journey Thursday night. Only after it ended could the principals acknowledge its complexities.

Kawhi Leonard came to Toronto as a hoped-for savior this NBA season. Being welcomed by a city and enjoying a honeymoon period are some of the more agreeable parts of being a superstar athlete. The much harder part — the aspect of Kawhi’s move from San Antonio to Canada which would challenge his leadership capabilities — was the task of blending in with his teammates and inspiring complete trust.

No teammate required Kawhi’s attention and care more than Kyle Lowry. Therefore, when you find out what Leonard texted to Lowry after the blockbuster trade from the Spurs to the Raptors, you can easily understand why the Raptors ripened into champions.

Toronto won its first NBA title ever — also the city’s first championship in any of the major North American team sports since 1993 — by defeating the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The Raptors won the series, 4-2, powered by huge performances from Kawhi, Lowry, and an able supporting cast highlighted by Fred VanVleet, who poured in 22 points and several massive fourth-quarter buckets.

Kawhi Leonard set the example on the Raptors this season. Kyle Lowry was receptive to it. The team took on Kawhi’s demeanor but retained Lowry’s selflessness. The mixture was perfect, and it is instructive to note that the cohesiveness of the many veteran players on the roster made first-year head coach Nick Nurse’s job so much easier.

Kawhi Leonard knew what it took to be a champion, but his teammates had to help him reach the NBA’s summit once again. Kawhi’s teammates were accommodating and coachable, but Kawhi also had to create an environment in which it was understood that he was part of a team, not a diva whose needs had to be catered to by everyone else in the Toronto locker room.

Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry both gave each other some space. They both thought about the pursuit of a championship above their own comfort zones.

They are now celebrating a historic NBA title, the first to come to a Canadian franchise.