Miami Heat

Kyle Lowry talks city of Toronto, free agency decision and more on CJ McCollum's podcast

"Six-time NBA All-Star, All-NBA Third Team in 2016, won an NBA championship with the Raptors in 2019, won a Gold medal in the 2016 Olympics, drafted in the first round, 24th pick overall out of Villanova. Oh by the way, he has his jersey retired. No. 1 hangs in the rafters at 'Nova. First in Raptors' history in assists, steals, 3s, triple-doubles. Raptors had never experienced 50 wins in a season before Kyle Lowry showed up. After he joined the team, they had five in a row, plus a 49-win season and a 48-win season. He will become the first-ever player to have his jersey retired with the Raptors. Oh, and by the way, he just signed for three-years, $90 million with the Miami Heat."

Quite the introduction from Portland Trail Blazers star guard CJ McCollum as he welcomed Kyle Lowry as a special guest on the latest episode of his podcast "Pull Up with CJ McCollum."

"You made me feel like I'm actually somebody. Damn, I felt good about myself right there," Lowry quipped to get things going.

Lowry and McCollum discussed a number of topics, from Lowry's journey to the NBA and going from a bench player to an All-Star, to the 2019 championship season with the Raptors, playing with Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan and his tough decision to head to Miami via sign-and-trade this past offseason.

But before all else, Lowry was able to share his connection with the city of Toronto and what that part of his life means to him.

"The city and the country, it means everything to me," Lowry told McCollum. "Both my kids have grown up in Toronto. That's all they knew. That's home to them. Everything that has happened in my life, to the highest of basketball accolades, has happened in Toronto. All my All-Stars, my Gold medal year, my championship. It means everything to me. And there's nothing anyone can tell me different, 'it's Canada,' it don't matter. It's home to me.

"I became a man there. That's where I grew to become the person I am now. To be a part of that organization, that country, that city, it means the world to me. I wouldn't be here without that opportunity and that chance that they gave me."

As you well know, Lowry played nine seasons in Toronto and is arguably the greatest player in franchise history. That's a title he donned after helping lead the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title in 2019, an experience that was indescribable for the six-time All-Star.

"When the confetti dropped in Oracle... it is the greatest high that you will ever have as an athlete," Lowry stated with passion.

"And one of the first things I could think of was 'how can I get back there?' Right after.

"How do you keep this feeling? We ain't supposed to be here. 'This kid from North Philly. The Toronto Raptors, a Canadian team. They can't get no players, they can't do this. Everything we 'can't do,' we did.

"And shoutout to Masai (Ujiri) for making the trades that he did. You know, one of the trades hit me a little, personally, but it still was business. But it was crazy. We really champions, and they ain't never, ever gonna take that away from me."

The trade he mentioned, of course, was the deal that sent his best friend DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, shaping the championship season. McCollum asked Lowry what it was like playing with both of those great players, to which Lowry felt a similar vibe between the two.

"With Kawhi, you kind of take on his (personality) a bit. Because he's so quiet and stays in the moment. ... Kawhi rubs people the wrong way because of the way he operates because he's like 'give me the ball and I'm gonna get it done.' You might be like 'Kawhi, move (the ball),' but you understand that he's the best basketball player on your team and big dog gotta eat.

"My role just changed because (Kawhi) was averaging 24 or 25 ... my scoring went way down but my assists went up because I knew that I had to make sure that big dog ate, but also that the other guys ate too. I wasn't worried about me, that goes back to being a bench player, I don't care as long as we win. So I took on the role of an old, traditional point guard," Lowry said of playing alongside Leonard.

"With DeMar, me and him, we clicked. ... It wasn't a role with us. We just became brothers. And we fed off each other. We used to love playing (CJ and Damian Lillard). Those three years, we were the highest scoring duos, Klay and Steph were in there too. We just had that feel for each other. We'd know, 'he ain't got it today,' or 'he got it.' It wasn't like a specific type of role, we knew each other. Eastern Conference Finals, we won many games together. We just had that feel for each other.

"The dynamics of those two, they're very eerily similar. Even off the court. People don't think Kawhi is different off the court. They're very eerily similar. It was awesome to play with those two and I'm blessed to play with those two talents."

Lastly, Lowry talked through the process of nearly being moved at the trade deadline, before finishing the season with the Raptors. He would later end up with the Heat via sign-and-trade, but the open communication between he and the front office was something unique.

"Masai and Bobby Webster kept me in the loop with everything. We had an open line of communication with what was going on," Lowry said.

"They were like 'alright Kyle, where do you want to go?' And that was their respect they gave me, for giving them nine great years of service," he stated of the chatter at the deadline.

"... I was like 'it'd be cool to go home to Philly or go to Miami' but I didn't want to be traded and leave my guys. Let me finish this year out. Let me enjoy Freddy (VanVleet). Let me enjoy OG (Anunoby). Let me enjoy Pascal (Siakam). Let me enjoy Chris Boucher for another year. Let me enjoy Norm, before he got traded to you guys. Let me enjoy being around these guys because I watched them grow. It makes my heart feel great to see those guys be successful."

Lowry talked about how that open communication was still key in orchestrating the right deal this offseason, too.

"... This summer, I knew the direction that Toronto was heading in and what they were going to do. They aren't trying to tank or anything, they're just going into a situation where those guys are younger and they're gonna let them take the reins, you know?

"Freddy is going to be a great player and an All-Star. OG is gonna get better. Same with Pascal once he gets back from his injury. And for me, it's championship or bust. Going to Miami, that was a situation where I felt like that's what they want to do. I have a close friend in Jimmy Butler there. And in Miami, that's what they want to do. If you're not playing for championships, what are you playing for? And that's the only thought process that went into my free agency."

Although Lowry is on to Miami to try and earn another championship before his playing days are done, his legacy will leave an impact on the city of Toronto, all of Canada and the Raptors' franchise forever.

You can find the full episode of "Pull Up with CJ McCollum" here.

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