Kawhi Leonard’s Magical Moment: Memories that will Last a Lifetime

Kawhi Leonard’s Magical Moment: Memories that will Last a Lifetime

Sports bring about a variety of emotions in people. Joy, sadness, anger, relief… When you are a passionate sports fan you will often feel multiple simultaneously. However, there are some moments in sports that transcend the ordinary and the expected, because of how special they truly are and the memories they create.

There will be many moments that I will always treasure as a sports fan and player. My first was as a five-year old kid, cheering for my newfound favourite football team: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; but being too young to stay up and watch the Super Bowl. I went to sleep dreaming, hoping and wishing that they would win. When I woke up the next morning, my dad had made me a sign out of Bristol board outside of my bedroom door with the 48-21 score that would give Tampa its first and, so far, only Super Bowl win. I don’t remember much about being five, but I will always remember that sense of elation and wonderment as a young child experiencing my first moments of fandom.

Then of course you have the adolescent moments of sports triumph, when you put on the guise of your favourite player and hit the ice, the pitch or the diamond, mimicking your heroes. Many have their various “hero” moments from their youth. For me it was scoring a game winning goal with 4 seconds left against a good friend of mine in a house league hockey game and turning a triple play to win a baseball playoff. These moments were tiny in comparison to the antics we see on television or high-up from the bleachers. They were just at the local arena and diamond in Mississauga, Ontario, in front of a few dozen parents and friends, but to me they were special and that is what mattered. Regardless of which sport you participate in, what level you play, or how big the crowd is, everyone has those little moments. They put you on top of the world, make you feel accomplished, and maybe… just for a second or two… make you feel like you are in the big leagues living out your dreams.

Sports are a concept that bring people together. If you even have an ounce of competitive spirit, there is an adrenaline that kicks in and just won’t let you say no. Even if you don’t have a special playing moment or a childhood instance of awe, every fan has “that” moment. Sometimes it’s at a bar, sometimes it’s at the stadium and sometimes it’s just at home. But I guarantee you that you can remember every detail about that game, that score or those seconds that seem to last a lifetime.

Mother’s Day 2019. Mississauga, Ontario. We can just come home from our traditional Mother’s Day lunch at the Mandarin buffet feeling a dozen pounds heavier and still trying to shake off that food coma. My entire family had a well-deserved nap, but I couldn’t sleep, the excitement was killing me. It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Division Final- Raptors and the 76ers. The series had gone back and forth with blow-outs by both parties and big-time players creating a collection of brilliance and mistakes. I had my Kawhi Leonard jersey on, recently purchased, and a Kyle Lowry t-shirt underneath. I was ready. Everyone was ready. The city of Toronto collectively held its breath.

We all had a feeling as to how it would end. Regardless of the scoring runs, the foul calls and the hilariously poor start by both teams there was only one way to end this marathon of a series. Reminiscent of a certain 2001 game 7 against Philadelphia, where Vince Carter missed a three-pointer to send Allen Iverson’s 76ers to the Conference Finals, this game was going to be decided by a final basket attempt.

Jimmy Butler had just laid up a basket in transition to tie the game at 90 with just over 4 seconds remaining. Nick Nurse had just called his last time-out. Marc Gasol to inbound. I remember exactly where everyone was- my father staring stoically from the couch across from my sister who sat in anticipation. My mother couldn’t even watch, she had vacated to the dining room and told us to let her know what happened. I couldn’t sit. I stood and tapped my foot furiously as the players made their preparations…

To be completely honest that shot had no business going in that Scotiabank Arena hoop. Toronto got the ball to Kawhi, but he was guarded by the 7-foot-tall Joel Embiid and had no clear lane to the hoop. He had driven to corner and thrown the ball in a great swooping arc…

That shot had no business going in… Toronto had everything go against them that game. Kyle Lowry had a dislocated thumb, no one could shoot a three (except Serge Ibaka of all people), and the referees had made some very questionable calls…

That shot had no business going in… Philly had the better collective team effort throughout this series. With Embiid, Butler, Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick and even Ben Simmons for approximately 1 game of effectiveness they were a nightmare to match up against. Kawhi had to essentially carry Toronto to a Game 7 on his shoulders…

That shot had no business going in… Kawhi had came to town at the expense of franchise icon Demar DeRozan and had shocked the basketball world. He had sat in every back-to-back this season and his playing time was monitored as he recovered from a nagging injury. He had had an amazing series, but there was no way he could live up to all the expectations…

That shot had no business going in… It bounced off the near side of the rim, the far side of the rim, and twice more after that. It hung in the air for what seemed like a millennium. Time froze, no one breathed…

And then it fell through the middle of that darned hoop. Despite everything that preceded it and despite all evidence that it shouldn’t, it did. And just like that Scotiabank Arena and the Watson residence erupted into chaos and elation!

This is why I am a sports fan. Sure, I love all the statistics and the analysis and the everyday game, but those are all secondary compared to moments that freeze time and bring an entire city to a roaring ovation. Seeing the effect it had on my family, co-workers and friends was amazing. Watching the multicultural, multigenerational crowd at Scotiabank Arena all bond and celebrate together in the name of sport was amazing. Regardless of how the rest of this series and playoff run go, and whether or not Kawhi decides to re-sign in Toronto, he will forever be remembered for this moment and will have his permanent place in Raptors lore.  Will you remember where you were and what you were doing on May 12th, 2019? I sure will- I was watching Kawhi’s magical moment, and making memories that will last a lifetime.



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