It was bound to happen eventually.
After nine seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Kyle Lowry will be playing elsewhere next year having signed a three-year deal to join the Miami Heat, according to Yahoo's Vincent Goodwill and Substack's Marc Stein. He announced the move on his Instagram posting "MIAMI HEAT X KYLE LOWRY. LET'S GOO!!"
This feeling shouldn't be new to Raptors fans. Time and time again the greatest Raptor of all time has come to the brink of leaving Toronto. Back in 2013, he had his bags packed for New York before James Dolan killed the deal. In 2017, he seemed destined to sign elsewhere before inking a deal to return to Toronto. Even this past year, at the trade deadline in March, the eulogies had been written before he showed up again on March 26 in a Raptors uniform to take on the Phoenix Suns.
This time though it's real.
What can be said? How can words describe that feeling Lowry gave Raptors fans time and time again. He's the pesky underdog, overlooked and written off who connected with a city that never seems to quite get the respect it deserves. He taught Raptors fans to look beyond the box score, beyond points per game and the traditional numbers to understand what makes a player truly great. It's not the flashy buckets or slam dunks, it's the cunning instinct, the pull-up three-pointers just when the defense starts backpedaling to defend the paint and the charges he took over and over again no matter how much pain he had to endure.
"Listen, I've heaped about as much praise as I can on him," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said at the 2021 trade deadline when it looked like Lowry would be heading elsewhere. "My one comment that I always make that I think is the highest compliment I give him is he plays harder than anybody I've ever seen. On the court coaching, or coaching against, or watching games or anything, he plays harder than anybody I've ever seen, I can't give him a higher compliment than that."
Lowry was the ideal champion. The one who took the long route, through adversity, to the top. For years he was seen as a playoff underperformer, the kind of player you couldn't count on when the light shined the brightest. But he learned, he adapted, and he overcame. When Toronto needed him the most, he rose to the occasion, opening Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals with 11 of the game's first 13 points.
Even without him, his legacy will live on not just in the stories and memories of the past eight years, but in the community, and within the organization. Look at how far Fred VanVleet has come under Lowry's tutelage, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell. All his teammates, Serge Ibaka included, have signed massive paydays and gone on for far more productive careers after teaming up with Lowry than anyone thought was possible.
"For me to be a part of that is one of the best feelings in the world because these guys will be able to provide for their families forever," Lowry said back in March.
This isn't goodbye, though. Lowry has meant too much to Toronto and, frankly, Toronto has meant too much to Lowry for this to be the end. He will, as he has said before, be back with the Raptors one day. Before he retires he wants to sign a one-day contract to celebrate his time in Toronto and everything the Raptors have meant to him.
Until then, the two have decided to go in different directions. For Lowry, Miami offers a chance to compete for a championship this season all while playing alongside Jimmy Butler, one of his closest friends in the league, and play golf in a state with more courses than anywhere else in the United States. For Toronto, it's a chance to look to the future, to build around a young core, and give playing time to an exciting group of players that are competing to get the organization back to where it was just a few seasons ago.
While the greatest chapter in Raptors history may be closing, its memory and its impact will certainly live on forever.