Although the Toronto Raptors have been an NBA franchise since 1995, the organization has yet to give one of its players the highest honour.
A handful for individuals — Vince Carter. Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan being the few that come top of mind — have done big things for the franchise over the last 24 years. However, nobody has done enough in the eyes of the organization to have their jersey retired.
ESPN’s Jalen Rose, who played parts of three seasons for the Raptors in the mid-2000’s, believes last season’s Finals MVP deserves to be the first.
“We’ve seen guys get video tributes that was questionable. The boss move? Retire his number that day, ” Rose said about what should be done when Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers on his show Jalen & Jacoby recently.
“Kawhi did something uniquely special,” he later added when questioned by his co-host, David Jacoby. “You give him a standing ovation and you retire his number when he returns.”
Leonard travels north of the border with his new squad on Dec. 11.
The fact that a healthy debate can be had on the topic despite the fact Board Man only played 84 games for the team (60 in the regular season, 24 in the playoffs) is a testament to what he accomplished in his single campaign with Toronto.
As Rose mentions, there are other Raptors that people may feel are more deserving of a jersey retirement due to their longevity and production while with the team. Yet, none of them were able to accomplish what Leonard did.
The 28-year-old averaged a mind-boggling 39.1 minutes, 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game during Toronto’s postseason run to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. All of those values were careers-highs and just some of the quantifiable data behind one of the greatest single-season performances in the history of professional sports.
Whether or not that justifies the threads of Leonard’s No. 2 going into the rafters at Scotiabank Arena — during the upcoming season or down the road — is yet to be seen.
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