Los Angeles Clippers

Inside Kawhi's return to Toronto

Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard [NBA Getty Images]

For the first time since leaving the Raptors for the LA Clippers in the offseason, Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto on Wednesday.

Leonard spent only one season with the Raptors, but it will never be forgotten. Not only did he have the best regular season of his career with averages of 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, Leonard led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title.

In the process, Leonard put together one of the most impressive postseasons we've ever seen. In addition to hitting an iconic shot in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, only two players have ever scored more total points in a single playoff run: LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

MORE: Did Kawhi have the greatest individual postseason run in NBA history?

Even though Leonard's return to Toronto is expected to be an emotional night, the two-time Finals MVP said he's focused on one thing - winning the game.

"I'll be thinking about just playing against the team and wanting to win the game, for the most part," Leonard said, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic . "Just really getting my ring that night. ... We're there for one reason: to play the Raptors and try to win the game."

Of course, a return isn't a return without a proper tribute video, and the Raptors released one for the "Fun Guy" 24 hours ahead of tip off…

The Raptors have also put up some billboards around Toronto, one at the Scotiabank Arena, another at the BMO Field...

Leonard, meanwhile, took out a billboard to thank Raptors fans for their support during the team's championship run.

"(The fans) were amazing last year," Leonard said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN . "They rolled with us through the ups and downs. We were down every series pretty much and they stuck through it with us. They brought great energy to every game and it helped us. So that's my thank you to them."

On the morning of the game, Leonard took questions from quite the media crowd.

Among the thinks Leonard talked about, he said that he gave re-signing with the Raptors a " big consideration " and that it was a hard choice to leave them for the Clippers.

Before tip-off, the Raptors' PA announcer introduced four of LA's starters and their head coach Doc Rivers, leaving the man of the night as the only player remaining. With everyone directing their attention to the video board, an extended version of the tribute video above was shown to honour Kawhi.

As part of the extended tribute video, an incredible display on the court reenacted the footsteps taken by Leonard on his historic Game 7 game-winning shot over the Philadelphia 76ers.


The Scotiabank Arena crowd echoed with chants of "MVP".

And finally, the former Raptor shook hands with his ex-teammates before Kyle Lowry awarded the Finals MVP with his championship ring.

In very Kawhi Leonard fashion, he cracked a subtle joke in pretended to cry as Lowry handed him the ring.

And that wrapped up the ring ceremony portion of Kawhi's first trip back to Toronto.

As for the actual game, after the first quarter it was all Clippers with the centre of attention leading the way.

Leonard finished with 23 points shooting 8-for-14 from the field and 2-for-4 from 3-point range to go with six assists and five rebounds as LA cruised to a 20-point victory.

After the game he shared his final moments of the marquee evening with his former teammates, with hugs and smiles all around.

It was a game and night that Leonard, the Raptors franchise and fans will remember for a long, long time.

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