He hasn’t even stepped on the floor for a regular season game yet, but Toronto basketball fans are already lamenting the thought of Kawhi Leonard leaving after only one year in a Raptors uniform.
Is it possible the best player the Raptors have ever acquired will stay in Canada beyond this season? Of course. Is it likely? Not so much, but a group of fans are continuing to build the momentum of the Keep Kawhi In Toronto project with a digital project called, “Kawhi or Die.”
The creators of the site are encouraging Raps supporters from across the country and beyond to sign an online form and jot down a fond memory or a sentimental note about what the Raptors mean to them, in hopes of tugging on Leonard’s heart strings and tipping his scales to the other side — the north side — of the fence come decision time.
“First and foremost, it’s an opportunity for us as fans to welcome Kawhi to our beautiful city, the country of Canada, and to the basketball team we are all so passionate about,” a description on the website reads.
“The easiest way to help is simply be counted. If one in 10 Canadians digitally signed the form and took a minute or two to put their passion for the Raptors into words or relates an experience about the frenzy of the Vince Carter days, or talks about what it means to them to have a player of Kawhi Leonard wear the Raptors uniform. We would be talking about 3.6 million entries.”
The Raptors gave up perhaps the most beloved star in the history of the franchise when they traded DeMar DeRozan for arguably a top five player in the world. With Leonard only under contract for one season, however, and having previously expressed a desire to return home to Los Angeles during the 2019 offseason, many have given the Raptors essentially a zero percent chance of re-upping Kawhi long term.
That tide is starting to turn, though, and on Thursday a report surfaced that Leonard is going to, at least, keep an open mind and won’t rule out re-signing in Toronto.
“Based off of me talking to people within his circle, they’re going to go into this thing with an open mind and give this thing every last opportunity to work. And at the end of the day, if that’s the case, it would be great if he stays,” San Antonio Express-News beat reporter Jabari Young said on TSN 1050 radio.
“Obviously, I think part of his mind, yes, let’s keep it real: I think he still feels like L.A. might be the destination, but the same time, he plans to go into this thing with an open mind, giving it every single shot in the world to make it work.”
As for the folks behind the Keep Kawhi In Toronto project, their strategy is pretty simple.
“If we make enough noise, I can pretty much guarantee it will come to Kawhi’s attention at some point!”
Grab your popcorn — the Raptors organization and its rabid fanbase’s creative and crafty attempts to keep Kawhi in Toronto for the long haul are going to be a spectacle of their own this NBA season.