The glory, by and large, will go to Kawhi Leonard, and rightfully so. What he did throughout a remarkable playoff run, in helping the Toronto Raptors hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions for the first time, is the stuff of lore.
Rarely do the type of bets Masai Ujiri made in acquiring him pay off in this way. If this is it, well, everyone definitely maxed out.
Still, let’s make sure to acknowledge that none of this happens, none of this is possible without Kyle Lowry.
At a time when there was no blueprint for a franchise badly cracked by the bitter parting with Vince Carter and subsequent flight of Chris Bosh, the brooding point guard with the malcontent rep drew up the plans, found a crew and against-the-odds and set a foundation. He poured his heart-and-soul into the Raptors, even if at times the commitment wasn’t necessarily fully reciprocal, joining DeMar DeRozan in seeing where things were headed and refusing to go out like that.
In realizing his best self here, he willed an organization continually undercut by factors both in and out of its control, to elite status with him.
A truly just ending would have been for that buzzer-beater at the end of Game 5 to have soared past Draymond Green’s outstretched fingers and right through the mesh to trigger bedlam at Scotiabank Arena. But he’s getting a ring after helping oust the Golden State Warriors with 26 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in a white-knuckle 114-110 Game 6 win. And as much as that’s thanks to Leonard, it will always be thanks to Lowry, too, which makes his place in the Toronto athlete pantheon so interesting.
There’s no signature moment like Joe Carter’s World-Series clinching homer, Roberto Alomar’s demon-killing drive off Dennis Eckersley, or Jose Bautista’s bat flip, although scoring 11 points in the first 2.5 minutes of the title clincher is now atop his resume. As a facilitator, Lowry underpinned the success of others the way Doug Gilmour did with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the diminutive centre will always have the enduring wizardry of that wraparound overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues. Unlike Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter and Chris Bosh, he stayed. Like Wendel Clark, Lowry provided his team with a heartbeat. And like Mats Sundin, he’s been seen for what he isn’t nearly as often as appreciated for what he is.