Certain names pop up on any list of the best guards in the NBA today. Stephen Curry is a no-brainer, as are the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and second-year phenom Luka Doncic all get praise for captaining their teams. One name who doesn’t make those lists as frequently is Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry may not put up eye-popping stats on a nightly basis, but he’s undeniably one of the most tenacious, impactful guards in the NBA. Let’s look back over his career so far and investigate his surprising response when asked about his definition of pressure.
Kyle Lowry’s NBA career
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Lowry with the 24th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. He spent most of his first four seasons as a backup guard. The Grizzlies traded Lowry to the Rockets as part of a three-team deal in February 2009. The 6-foot point guard spent three more years in Houston, where he morphed into a solid starting player.
The Rockets traded Lowry to the Raptors in July 2012 for Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick. By his second season in Toronto, Lowry took his game to a new level. He averaged a then-career-high 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game. Numbers like that became par for the course for the smart and durable guard, who earned five All-Star selections between 2015 and 2020.
Yet doubts persisted about Lowry, specifically with regard to his post-season performances. Although his playoff numbers remained on par with his regular-season ones, Lowry’s Raptors squads never managed an Eastern Conference championship or a berth in the NBA Finals. Having to go up against LeBron James had a lot to do with that.
All that finally changed last year, when the Raptors gambled by trading longtime guard DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. Leonard’s presence — plus some truly great moments from Lowry — allowed the Raptors to make it to the NBA Finals. There, they defeated a short-handed Golden State Warriors squad in six games.
What pressure means to Kyle Lowry
The question occurred during last year’s NBA Finals. During a media session, somebody asked Lowry how he defined pressure. Most players would have a stock response ready; they’d explain how they kept their cool in the most intense in-game action. Lowry, however, took a different approach. Without batting an eye, he answered:
“What my mom had to go through and my grandmom had to go through, feeding myself, my brother and my cousin and my little cousin and my other little cousins. Going to work, getting up at 5 in the morning and going to work and making me cereal, having a bowl of cereal sitting in the refrigerator with some milk and being able to provide for me and my brother and my family. That’s pressure. That’s pressure to me.”
In other words, Lowry took the question of pressure right out of the sports world. Instead, he got personal about the kinds of family sacrifices that allowed him to get where he was.
The importance of family
Lowry followed up his media comments with a long personal essay on The Players’ Tribune. In that piece published last October, the guard states he inherited all of his toughness from his grandmother. According to Lowry, she “had this hard edge about her,” which everybody knew was really just an expression of her care and love.
Of course, that toughness also meant that if Lowry fell afoul of his grandmother, he’d be in serious trouble. Lowry’s mother, by contrast, was far more relaxed. Presumably, Lowry is taking a blend of those two approaches into his own family life. Lowry is married to his high school sweetheart Ayahna Cornish. Together, the couple has two young sons: Karter and Kameron.