Kawhi Leonard reflects on time in Toronto amid return: ‘Ride was fun’
Kawhi Leonard makes his highly anticipated return to Toronto Wednesday night to play against the Raptors for the first time since leaving the defending champions in free agency this past offseason.
Ahead of a showdown between his Clippers squad and former team, Leonard reflected upon his time with the Raptors, and the soft-spoken superstar provided a measured characterization of his tenure in Toronto.
Kawhi Leonard on how much consideration he gave toward returning to Toronto pic.twitter.com/bxKjGY3Flb— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) December 11, 2019
“The ride was fun,” Leonard said the Clippers’ morning shootaround, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I had a great time last year with the coaching staff, front office and the players. It was a great experience.”
Leonard also noted he gave “big consideration” to re-signing with the Raptors, and later singled out how much the fervent support of Raptors fans inspired the team.
“They were amazing last year,” Leonard said. “They rode with us through the ups and downs. Just talking to another media [outlet] and I was telling them how we were down in every series pretty much, except the championship, and they stuck through it with us and they brought great energy to every game and it helped us. That is my thank you to them.”
While Leonard’s stint in Toronto was short-lived, his one season undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the city’s sports scene, one that will be recalled favorably despite his departure. That much is clear given how the Raptors have paid tribute to him with billboards around town.
The following billboards greeted Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers when they arrived pic.twitter.com/WLd3umMrnx— Joseph Casciaro (@JosephCasciaro) December 11, 2019
Leonard responded in kind with a billboard of his own that expressed his gratitude.
Kawhi Leonard made sure to thank @Raptors fans ahead of his return.#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/hIJEBFUEDy— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 11, 2019
Leonard may be gone, but he will never be forgotten in Toronto anytime soon. Even more remarkable, Leonard may be one of the few athletes to leave a team in such a manner and still manage to enjoy the love, admiration and respect of the spurned fan base.