Kawhi Leonard is still Toronto loyalty.
Nearly six months after Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA championship, the Toronto faithful showered their former star with “MVP” chants upon his first return to Canada on Wednesday night.
“It’s like Maximus coming back as the gladiator,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters before the Clippers 112-92 win. “He was the champion and just did everything honorably and the right way.”
Leonard had not yet played in Toronto after leaving Canada for Los Angeles by signing a three-year, $103.14 million contract with the Clippers this summer.
After the four other Clippers starters were announced by the Raptors public address announcer before the game, the arena blared a nearly-two-minute tribute video reliving Leonard’s best moments with the franchise.
Shortly after, Leonard’s ex-teammate Kyle Lowry handed Leonard his championship ring, with the two-time Finals MVP appearing to wipe his eyes in a rare show of emotion.
Once the game started however, it was strictly business for Leonard and the Clippers as they handily beat the Raptors, who have found ways to win this season even without their former star.
Leonard posted 23 points, six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes on the night, with the Clippers outscoring the Raptors 37-14 in the second quarter to grab control of the game.
“It was great, man,” Leonard said of the reception at Scotiabank Arena. “We had an unbelievable season last year. Competed throughout the whole season and a historic run in the playoffs. Man, it was a great feeling.”
Wednesday’s win brought the Clippers to 19-7 on the season.