Less than two months into his first season as a member of the LA Clippers, Kawhi Leonard is set to make his return to Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, the place that he called home for the 2018-19 season.
What a year it was.
It essentially began on July 18, 2018, with the trade that sent him from San Antonio to Toronto and effectively wrapped with his hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy at Oracle Arena on June 13 and in front of millions of Raptors fans days later.
He's a two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP.
Of course, Kawhi made a number of memories along the path to leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title.
Let's revisit some of the best…
Sept. 23, 2018 - The Introduction
After months of speculation and anticipation, it was finally real. At Raptors media day, Leonard was introduced alongside Danny Green and we all caught our first glimpse of the newly-acquired duo in a Raptors uniform.
Oct. 17, 2018 - The Debut
Kawhi Leonard records 24 PTS, 13 REB to help the @Raptors win in his debut! #WeTheNorth #KiaTipOff18 pic.twitter.com/BxW6o2NocQ- NBA (@NBA) October 18, 2018
In front of a sold-out Scotiabank Arena, Kawhi didn't disappoint in his first game as a Raptor, posting a double-double to lead the team to a 12-point win over the Cavs.
Oct. 24, 2018 - A no-look… steal
Kawhi Leonard dives for the no-look steal! #KiaTipOff18 pic.twitter.com/wlR9vCBx9j- NBA (@NBA) October 25, 2018
Players of Leonard's calibre often do things that seem supernatural. His insane defensive instincts led to one of those moments as he dove for a no-look steal in an early-season win over the Timberwolves.
Nov. 29, 2018 - Instantly-classic duel with KD
Kawhi Leonard poured in a season-high 37 PTS to lead the @raptors to the OT WIN!#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/BJEO9CYGwI- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) November 30, 2018
Golden State's lone regular-season visit to Toronto was an instant classic. Kawhi (37 points) and two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant (51 points) duelled throughout the overtime thriller, where the Raptors would move to 19-4 on the season with a three-point win.
Jan. 1, 2019 - A new career-high against the Jazz
Kawhi rang in the new year in the best way possible, exploding for a career-high 45 points (on 16-for-22 shooting) as the Raptors earned a six-point home win over the Jazz.
Feb. 11, 2019 - Go-ahead bucket delivers the win over Brooklyn
Part of the reason the Raptors made the move to acquire Leonard was his ability to perform in the clutch. He did just that against the Nets as he knocked down the game-winning jumper in the game's final seconds for a two-point win.
Feb. 22, 2019 - Offence leads to defence against a familiar foe
KL² IN THE CLUTCH pic.twitter.com/97LJ9kCQaa- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 23, 2019
Clutch. Again. This time, it was against his former team.
Down one point, Leonard was able to force a DeMar DeRozan turnover and score in transition to give Toronto the lead late in the game. The Raptors would go on to beat the Spurs by three points in an emotional contest.
March 1, 2019 - Game-winner lifts Raptors past the Blazers
🚨 KAWHI FOR THE WIN 🚨 #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/mBK3oAIdsy- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) March 2, 2019
Kawhi would again deliver in the clutch as he drove towards the baseline to knock down a game-winning jumper that bounced around the rim before it fell in, snapping Portland's five-game win streak. He would finish the night with 38 points (on 14-for-22 shooting).
April 27, 2019 - A new postseason career-high
Game 1 is where statements are often made.
Leonard did just that in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals as he went for an efficient 45 points (on 16-for-23 shooting) to go along with 11 rebounds as the Raptors cruised past the Sixers.
While he probably could have scored 50 points, Kawhi made it clear that he was focused on just one thing - winning.
May 5, 2019 - Delivering in a must-win situation
Kawhi Leonard's 39 PTS (5 3PT) and 14 REB propels the @Raptors to a road win in Game 4!#WeTheNorth | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/zchQhnw0bN- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 6, 2019
After dropping Games 2 and 3 to Philadelphia, Toronto needed to earn a win in a hostile Wells Fargo Arena environment to avoid falling in a 3-1 hole.
How did Kawhi respond?
39 points (13-for-20 shooting), 14 rebounds, five assists and a dagger 3-pointer over Joel Embiid with just over a minute remaining to effectively put the game away.
KAWHI NOT! 🔥 #WeTheNorth | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/kX3tXcUPwD- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 5, 2019
May 12, 2019 - Game 7
Game 7 is by far one of the most defining performances in Leonard's career so far.
From start to finish.
Kawhi Leonard tallied 41 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST & 3 STL to lead the @Raptors to series-clinching WIN!#WeTheNorth | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/mWVcCPBsh4- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 13, 2019
In what was at the time the biggest game in Raptors franchise history, Kawhi answered the call when things were rough for many.
MORE: Five stats from Kawhi's Game 7 | Sights and sounds from Kawhi's game winner
He would go on to finish the game with 41 points and eight rebounds, capping off his performance with the shot - a buzzer-beating series clincher.
May 19, 2019 - Leading the Raptors past the Bucks in 2OT
It almost seems like Kawhi's best performances came when the Raptors needed them the most.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto desperately looked to avoid falling down 3-0 to Milwaukee.
Leonard ensured that wouldn't happen as he logged 52 minutes of playing time, finishing with 36 points (19 in the fourth quarter), nine rebounds and five assists as the series would begin to sway in Toronto's favour.
May 23, 2019 - A crucial performance in Game 5 of the ECF
When a best-of-7 series is tied at two games apiece, Game 5 is often referred to as pivotal because the winner goes on to win the series over 80% of the time.
Again, Kawhi rose to the occasion.
This time, it was to the tune of 35 points, a career-high nine assists and seven rebounds as the Raptors earned a six-point road win. The franchise had now earned more postseason wins than it ever had before, and the Finals were suddenly within reach.
May 25, 2019 - Advancing to the Finals in style
Closeout Kawhi. Clutch Kawhi.
It was a rough 3-point shooting night for the Raptors star forward, but he still managed to finish the game with 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists as Toronto advanced to the Finals for the first time in franchise history with a comeback victory.
Aside from the moment in which Kawhi hoisted the Eastern Conference Championship trophy, no moment was bigger than his monstrous dunk that capped the Raptors momentum-swinging run.
🤯 KAWHI 🤯#WeTheNorth | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/inxfgEMqId- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) May 26, 2019
It was the moment when most really realized that it was happening.
June 7, 2019 - An NBA Finals career-high
Kawhi has played in 18 NBA Finals games.
He put forth his best scoring performance in Game 4 of the 2019 Finals.
In 40 minutes of action, Leonard was lights out, scoring 36 points while shooting 11-for-22 from the field and 5-for-9 from beyond the arc, pulling down 12 rebounds and grabbing four steals to bring the Raptors within one win of winning the first title in franchise history.
Still, it was all business postgame, showing that he had made his impact on the culture of the team.
June 13, 2019 - Hoisting the Larry O'Brien
"It's been a long time"
For Kawhi, it had been five years. For the Raptors, it had been forever.
Kawhi Leonard's stats from Game 6:- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) June 14, 2019
1 BLOCK#WeTheNorth | #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/DOuALqeJRp
In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Leonard finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists to help Toronto win the first title in franchise history. His averages of 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the series earned him Finals MVP honours for the second time in his eight-year career.
Two-time champ. Two-time Finals MVP.
June 17, 2019 - The Parade
Forever a legend.
Kawhi 🖐 addresses fans at the @Raptors championship rally! pic.twitter.com/8j4ArIp0Yo- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) June 17, 2019