Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard takes a selfie holding his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

‘Build this man a statue’: Twitter responds to Leonard’s move to Clippers

Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto

Raptors Twitter was ignited Saturday morning following reports that Kawhi Leonard will be signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

But instead of anger or resentment for a player deciding to leave Toronto after just one season, the Twitter outpouring showed a Raptors fan base that was filled with gratitude for a superstar who led them to their first NBA championship in franchise history less than a month ago.

“Retire his jersey and build this man a statue,” tweeted Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who grew up in Toronto while his father played for the Maple Leafs. “No one can ever take away what he has done for this city and this country. What a ride. Thank you Kawhi!”

News of Leonard’s decision broke early Saturday morning, with a person familiar with the negotiations adding that the Clippers will be landing Leonard after they acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a massive trade for players and draft picks.

Leonard was arguably the most coveted prize in this year’s free agent market, and the 28-year-old met with several teams this week including the Lakers and Clippers — both in his hometown of Los Angeles — and the Raptors.

READ MORE: Kawhi Leonard to leave Raptors, sign with L.A. Clippers

Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov, who grew up in nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., tweeted: “Welcome home Kawhi. Thanks for everything.”

The news ended months of speculation and angst for Raptors fans who awaited Leonard’s decision for days after free agency opened last Sunday.

No one seemed to know which way Leonard was leaning. Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto. Rose said on air days ago he was “99 per cent hearing” Leonard would re-sign.

“I was wrong. Dead wrong,” Rose tweeted Saturday. “No one saw this timeline or the Clips also adding PG! Wow!!!”

The top 10 Twitter trends in Toronto were about the move on Saturday morning. Hashtags #ThankYouKawhi and #ThankYouDanny, for Danny Green — who announced he was signing with the Lakers shortly after Leonard’s decision was reported — were both trending.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who frequently wore a black blazer adorned with gold Raptors logos during the post-season and at the championship parade, sent out a message to Leonard in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“Maybe he didn’t like the jacket,” Tory quipped at the start of the video.

“Kawhi, you brought us a championship and that’s important in this city. We haven’t had many of those in recent times and it’s going to get us on a very positive wavelength where we’re going to have more,” Tory continued. “And make no mistake, when you come back here there’s going to be no mercy. We’ll still love you but there’s going to be no mercy when you come back here and play our Raptors because they’re going to be in it and they’re going to win it again.

“We just wish we could do it with you but we wish you all the very best and we say thank you very much for the inspiration and the excitement that you brought to Toronto and for the winner that you helped to bring to Toronto with your Raptor teammates.”

UFC fighter Max Holloway, a Honolulu native and known Raptors supporter, said on Twitter that he was “grateful to be a fan.”

“Don’t have to follow basketball to know Kawhi helped bring a lot more than a championship to Toronto,” Holloway said. “I’m just grateful to be a fan and got to witness it. I’m super happy the champ gets to go home now.”

Canada’s Olympic athletes also showed their support for Leonard via social media, including former kayaker Adam van Koeverden, the gold medallist from the 2004 Athens Games.

“Fun (guy) while it lasted,” van Koeverden said, referencing one of Leonard’s first quotes with the Raptors — which New Balance transformed into an ad campaign during the playoff run. “Onwards and Upwards, #WeStillTheNorth.”

Canadian Olympic track star Aaron Brown tweeted a photoshopped picture of Leonard dunking the Larry O’Brien trophy over Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who the Raptors beat in the Eastern Conference final.

“Kawhi Leonard will Forever be a Raptor Legend,” Brown said.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Mowi’s B.C. salmon farms achieve environmental certification from independent watchdog

Aquaculture Steward Council certification complies with 500 sustainability and social measures

Zeballos and Tahsis included in $3.46 million provincial emergency preparedness funding

The provincial funding will help 24 local governments and First Nations to assess flood hazards and develop effective strategies

Small group of volunteers clean up Campbell River beach

Other events held in Nanaimo, Comox, Powell River and Victoria

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Most Read