They say to always trust famous rappers when they report the news. OK, no one has ever said that, but we can trust them to talk about their own lives, which, in turn, occasionally gives us news since most of them are friends with other notable celebrities. That was recently the case with superstar rapper Drake, as he discussed Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and how he feels about the time he spent on Toronto Raptors in 2018-19.
Leonard is committed to the Clippers long-term, but Drake, the die-hard Raptors fan, said that the five-time All-Star misses Toronto and its fans.
Kawhi Leonard won a championship with the Raptors
Although he only played in Toronto for one season, Kawhi Leonard will always have a connection to the Raptors.
The franchise traded its best player, DeMar DeRozan, to the San Antonio Spurs for him in July 2018, and it ended up paying off big time. Leonard averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Raptors that season, and he led them to a 58-24 record, which was good for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
He and Toronto faced adversity in the playoffs. After beating the Orlando Magic in the first round, they went to seven games with the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Leonard and company then fell behind 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning in six games to clinch a spot in the NBA Finals.
During the championship round, the Raptors took on the Golden State Warriors, who were appearing in their fifth consecutive Finals and had won three of the last four titles. But injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson led to Leonard and the Raptors winning the series in six games.
The win was the franchise’s first-ever championship, and Leonard won his second Finals MVP award after averaging 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in the series.
Following that season, though, Leonard left and signed with the LA Clippers. He has since played in LA the last two seasons and just signed a new contract with the organization this summer. Toronto, on the other hand, made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals without him in 2019-20 but went 27-45 and missed the playoffs in 2020-21.
Drake said Kawhi misses Toronto
If you follow the NBA, you likely know that Drake is a massive Raptors fan. The Toronto native is almost always at the biggest games, pestering the opponents’ superstars.
With Leonard playing on his team for one year and Drake seemingly being tight with several players throughout the league, the two men appear to be close pals. Leonard even made a cameo in one of Drake’s music videos for a song on Certified Lover Boy.
Recently, the rapper appeared on a preseason broadcast for the Raptors, and he discussed Leonard’s feelings about Toronto.
“I’ll tell you honestly one thing about Kawhi that I could tell the people, whenever I see him, he expresses the utmost gratitude and just always says how much he misses the fans and the city,” Drake said on Oct. 11, per Sports Illustrated. “So you know that’s my guy, honestly; he’s really grateful for his time here.”
That news likely warms Raptors fans’ hearts. Leonard helped them win their first-ever championship, which will connect him to organization and city forever.
But it doesn’t mean the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is returning to Canada anytime soon. He is now with the Clippers for the long haul.
Kawhi Leonard is with the Clippers for the foreseeable future
After winning that title with the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard has since had success with the Clippers, but he has failed to accomplish what he achieved in Toronto in terms of winning a championship.
Leonard averaged a career-high 27.1 points in 2019-20 to go with 7.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists, and he led LA to a 49-23 record. But the Denver Nuggets upset the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals, beating them in seven games.
LA then reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history in 2020-21, but it largely occurred because of Paul George. Leonard suffered a partially torn ACL in the semifinals and didn’t play in the conference finals, which led to the Clippers losing to the Phoenix Suns in the series.
The 30-year-old is now expected to miss a good portion of the 2021-22 season, but he signed a four-year, $176.3 million contract with LA this summer. Because of the security, he reportedly plans to return to the court at some point this year, per ESPN, which will likely make the Clippers one of the best teams in the Western Conference yet again.
It’s clear that Leonard has moved past his Raptors days, and he’s committed to LA for the next several years. But the championship he won in Toronto will always keep him connected to the city, and, by the sounds of Drake’s comments, it appears it will forever have a special place in his heart as well.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference