Looking back on the 2018-19 championship-winning campaign for the Toronto Raptors, it is incredibly poetic that it both started and finished with the Kawhi Leonard laugh.
First, there was the introductory presser where the longest-tenured beat reporter for the Raptors, Doug Smith, asked Leonard what he would like the people of Toronto know about him. The superstar quipped back, saying he wasn’t going to give a whole spiel right then and there to someone he couldn’t even see before unleashing the most viral laugh of the season.
Then, he gave us the legendary parade closer with the slow-mo version of the laugh after telling fans to enjoy the moment, which just so happens to sync perfectly with his four-bounce series-winner against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
kawhi leonard’s game 7 buzzer beater syncs perfectly with his championship parade laugh pic.twitter.com/OIPRoQ3Bny— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 17, 2019
Head coach Nick Nurse made an appearance on The Lowe Post with Zach Lowe of ESPN the day after the championship parade, and revealed that Leonard may not just be a fun guy, but the funniest guy. He’s also louder than he might let on to the general public.
“I think this thing about him not saying things and being so quiet is almost played out,” Nurse said. “He was unbelievable yesterday at the parade speech, absolutely stole the show. He does that constantly, he’s the funniest guy in the film room because he waits and delivers the knockout punchline.
“He’s coachable, he talks to me a lot during the games about the games, in the huddles, in the film room — he talks a lot, we’ve probably misread him a bit in that way.”
Nurse also went on to reveal that Leonard delivered one of those knockout punchlines after the Raptors defeated the Bucks in Game 5 in Milwaukee, when he tried to keep his team level-headed and focused on the task at hand with an opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 6.
The 51-year-old described to his team how his D-League team had won a Game 1 in a best-of-three Finals on the road and would have the opportunity to win the championship at home, and with the city abuzz and even ring sizes being prepped, the team lost by 25.
Halfway through that story, Leonard interjected with, “In the D-League? I’m done listening to this story.”
It speaks to the chemistry the pair have developed over the course of the season that Leonard can feel so comfortable in chirping his coach like that, and bodes well for the big decision Leonard has to make soon in free agency.
“I know him a lot better. I really like the level of our relationship, the level of our communication,” Nurse said. “If we were going into that meeting tomorrow, he would certainly have a different feel for me.”
Lowe also asked Nurse about what the most pivotal moments were for him during the regular season, personally, and he picked two.
The first came in San Antonio in January, when the Raptors were blown out in Leonard and Danny Green’s return to the Spurs’ stomping grounds, after which they all came together to defeat the Bucks on the road without Kyle Lowry.
The second came as a result of Lowry, after Nurse’s mother passed away. Despite leaving the team momentarily, he returned to coach against the Los Angeles Clippers. When Lowry asked why he came back so quickly, Nurse said it was because his mom would kick his butt if he didn’t, to which Lowry responded:
“We’re going to win the title for your mom.”
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