Kawhi Leonard nearly never left the Toronto Raptors in July, when he ultimately decided to team up with Paul George and join the Los Angeles Clippers to play near his home in California.
Leonard is back in Toronto for the first time since signing a three-year, $103 million deal with the Clippers. He’ll be welcomed in a championship ring ceremony celebrating the Raptors’ first NBA title before the Raptors host Leonard’s Clippers on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, a New Balance billboard with Leonard’s likeness emerged near the Raptors’ downtown arena scripted with the words “THANK YOU TORONTO.”
The Raptors also paid for a billboard that said “BOARD MAN GETS HIS RING,” featuring a photo of Leonard holding the Finals MVP trophy.
‘Big consideration’ toward returning
Leonard said hours before the game that leaving was a difficult decision.
“I gave it big consideration,” Leonard said. “I took my time. I didn’t hurry up and make a quick decision. … It was a hard choice to make.”
Leonard also met with the Los Angeles Lakers before he opted to join the Clippers.
Because of the reaction from fans last season, Leonard said he expects a crowd that is very much pro-Raptors, even if he gets some applause during the ring ceremony. The Raptors already have shared portions of the tribute video assembled for Leonard, and encouraged fans to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. ET.
Raptors chapter comes full circle
Leonard has seen pictures and other social media regarding the ring he will receive on Wednesday.
“I think it looks nice. I want to see it in person, so it comes full circle,” Leonard said.
Kawhi Leonard will receive his championship ring this week. In case you missed it—somehow…those diamonds are hard to miss—here’s what the rings look like and how they’re made. https://t.co/zhrE4bCvcv
— Maclean’s Magazine (@macleans) December 11, 2019
Leonard said he undoubtedly will sense some nostalgia as he approaches the arena prior to gametime. He also knows it will be a much different feeling.
“The ride was fun,” Leonard said. “It was a great experience.”
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)