Throughout these NBA playoffs, Kawhi Leonard has done the improbable over and over again, helping to carry the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Finals appearance. He hit the game-clinching three over Joel Embiid in Game 4 of the second-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, which was followed by a series-clinching buzzer-beater in front of the home crowd in Game 7.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, with Toronto trailing 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Leonard took on the defensive assignment against Giannis Antetokounmpo and was the best two-way player on the floor for the next four games.
The Raptors won all four, and after Thursday’s Game 1 victory in the NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors, they are now three victories away from the championship.
The on-court accomplishments have been remarkable—one of the greatest individual postseason runs in years—but Leonard’s most improbable task might be this: He might have single-handedly changed a cynical Raptors fanbase into a group that is willing to believe in anything. It was especially cheap nba jerseys from china
evident Thursday, with a home crowd that was not only confidently cheering on their team from tip-off but were persistent with their energy throughout the evening. The Raptors are in the Finals for the first time in NBA franchise history, and it appears they may be ready to turn the page permanently and leave all their insecurities behind.
Arguably no NBA fanbase has a greater inferiority complex than that of the Raptors. I grew up in Toronto and have followed the Raptors for their entire 24 years of existence. The feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop whenever things go well is the defining characteristic of rooting for the team. From Tracy McGrady leaving in free agency for Orlando, Vince Carter demanding a trade to New Jersey, high draft picks like Andrea Bargnani not panning out and the repeated failures of the Dwane Casey-Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan Raptors in the playoffs, there’s a rich history of disappointment from following the franchise which has made this feeling permeate among the fanbase.