On This Day: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors win NBA Finals
Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors made history one year ago today.
On June 13, 2019, Leonard's Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors 114-110 in Game 6, giving Toronto the deciding fourth win in the series.
It was the Raptors' first title in franchise history, and it was an improbable one. Going into the 2018-2019 season, the Warriors were viewed as a heavy favorite to win the NBA Finals. Toronto, on the other hand, opened with the ninth-best odds.
The Raptors impressed during the regular season, earning the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and ranking among the top five in both offensive and defensive rating.
Leonard led the team in scoring and in steals, averaging 26.6 points and 1.8 takeaways per game, but he was even more dominant once the playoffs began.
The two-way star put together one of the best postseason performances in league history, averaging 30.5 points on .490/.379/.884 shooting splits and hauling in 9.1 rebounds per game — all while locking up some of the best players in the game on defense, including Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And how could anyone forget about the buzzer-beater he sank to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals?
Now, one year later, Leonard is a member of the LA Clippers and in a drastically different situation.
His team is again the No. 2 seed in the conference, and it ranks among the top five in both offensive and defensive rating as well — but that's essentially where the similarities end.
Instead of the NBA Finals wrapping up today, fans are still awaiting the return of a league that's been on hiatus since March 11, when the season was indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Play is expected to resume in late July, and it looks as though a champion will be crowned by mid-October.
A title victory this year would mean a lot to Leonard and do a lot for his legacy. Robert Horry and John Salley are the only players to win at least one title with three or more teams, and no player has ever been named Finals MVP with three different teams. Leonard, LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are all tied with two apiece.
Time will tell if Leonard and the LA Clippers can make history this year, but based on what we saw from this team during the regular season — especially after the All-Star break — the Clippers should certainly be among the favorites.