After almost being traded at the deadline, it's important to remember just how much Kyle Lowry means to the city of Toronto.
Toronto Raptors fans were gripping their seats and rocking back and forth all day last Thursday as the prospect of Kyle Lowry being traded loomed in the air. With Lowry becoming a free agent in 2021, there has been talk that Lowry won't be coming back to the team as they look to shift younger, and focus on players like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakim. Of course, losing your franchise point guard in free agency is a massive blow, which is why most analysts figured Lowry would be traded so that the Raptors could at least get some kind of return. In the end, however, the trade proposals simply weren't strong enough and the Raptors held onto their franchise player.
The news came alongside a massive sigh of relief across Canada. Lowry remains a Raptor, and for many, this is all they could ask for in a year where the Raptors have found it impossible to execute any sort of consistency. For some NBA fans, the obsession with Lowry seems out of place. After all, Lowry has never been considered a superstar. When compared to point guards like Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard, there are some who feel like Lowry is simply "second-tier." If you're a Raptors fans who has been paying attention, you would understand that this is a casual observer's take.
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Simply put, Lowry is the glue that has held the Raptors together for 9 seasons now. Back in 2012, the Raptors were trying to get Steve Nash on their roster. They even made some roster moves specifically to bring Nash back to Canada. In the end, Nash dubbed the Raptors and went to the Los Angeles Lakers, which in hindsight, was absolutely the wrong decision. At the time, the Raptors were in a state of disarray and they needed someone to help their burgeoning star, DeMar DeRozan. That's when the Houston Rockets stepped in and dealt Lowry to the Raptors for a small price. For the first time in a while, the Raptors finally had their point guard and he did not disappoint. Eventually, Lowry and DeRozan were leading the Raptors to multiple playoff appearances and at times, the Raptors were first in the entire Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the playoff disappointments continued to ramp up as the Raptors could never go as far as their record would suggest.
Despite this, Lowry was always averaging big numbers, and in 2017, he hit a career-high of 22.4 points per game, all while notching seven assists. It was an impressive showing that was once again overshadowed by another embarrassing playoff defeat at the hands of LeBron James. The same exact thing happened in 2018 and fans were looking for a scapegoat. Both DeRozan and Lowry were faltering in the postseason and the Raptors needed to do something, otherwise, they would always be one of those teams that does great in the regular season, but can't perform in the playoffs. This led to the infamous Kawhi Leonard trade, which brought a championship superstar to Canada.
At the time, there were reports that Lowry was livid with the team for trading away his best friend and teammate. Masai Ujiri and Lowry didn't speak for weeks, and there was a sense that Lowry could be on the way out, as well. Those fears died by the wayside, and actually, led to one of the most impressive stretches of Lowry's career. With Leonard on the roster, Lowry ended up having a dip in his offensive production, only averaging over 14 points per game. Despite this, Lowry finished with a career-high in assists, all while improving on the defensive end. He was able to cement himself as a top-five point guard in the game, and it was impossible to deny his impact on the Raptors. Having said all of that, there were still fears about what would happen in the playoffs, especially with the previous years still fresh in everyone's mind.
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In the first game of the 2019 playoffs, it looked like vintage Lowry had come out to play, and we mean that in the worst way possible. He finished with zero points, all while shooting 0-13 in a loss to the Orlando Magic. The collective groans from Toronto fans could be heard all across Canada. From there, things took a drastic turn for the better. All of a sudden, Lowry was playing at his most confident in years, and eventually, he and Kawhi Leonard had the Raptors in the NBA Finals for the first time in the team's history. This alone would be enough to put Lowry's jersey in the rafters. Of course, Lowry wasn't content with just a Finals appearance. In almost every single Finals game, Lowry put on a show, and in the pivotal Game 6 which one the Raptors the Chip, he scored the first seven points of the game, all while notching 26 by the final buzzer. Lowry was finally an NBA champion and while Leonard won Finals MVP, there was no doubt that Lowry was the better story. After years of grinding in the playoffs, Lowry finally broke through and delivered a title to the city he has now called home for nine years.
During the summer of 2019, Leonard had the opportunity to become the greatest Raptor of all time. Instead, he chose to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, thus making Lowry the undeniable Raptors GOAT. Throughout the years, the Raptors have seen plenty of great players pass through Toronto. Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Leonard are all massive stars who put the Raptors on the map. Despite this, none of them have the same longevity or loyalty as Lowry. Due to its climate, Toronto hasn't always been an ideal location for free agents. It's hard to keep players in the city but throughout his career, Lowry made it a point to stay with the team. This is the kind of mentality that makes fans remember you, and Lowry embraced all of it. While he may very well decide to leave in the Summer, there is no denying that he did his part for this team. Bringing championships to teams outside of the usual markets is insanely difficult in today's game, yet somehow, Lowry, Leonard, and the rest of that Raptors roster did it, against one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history, no less.
His success with the Raptors is as unlikely as it gets, but that never stopped him from giving the only team from Canada some extremely memorable moments. The Raptors will never have another player like Lowry and that's exactly why the fans cherish him so dearly. It took the franchise 25 years to win its first title and had Lowry been traded, it would have taken a lot longer than that for fans to get over it.