Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard told ESPN after Thursday’s NBA Finals win that this first championship is “something that the Raptors can build on.” That was a telling slip of the tongue. If he’s already planning to depart, we need extreme measure, writes Vinay Menon.
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto is begging you: please stay
By Vinay MenonEntertainment Columnist
Fri., June 14, 2019
Now that the Raptors have sprinkled championship glory on the city, the next question is: “Will Kawhi Leonard stay or go?”
Or more precisely: “How can we keep him here?”
It would be great if we could relish Thursday’s historic triumph with carefree bliss. But with the NBA free agency period set to begin this month — they really should install a Fun Guy countdown clock in Nathan Phillips Square — we do not have the luxury of time. The ticking actually got louder after we won it all.
Would you line up for Boxing Day on Dec. 27? Would you arrive at the airport at 5 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight? Exactly. So to keep Kawhi from flying away with his immense gifts, we must act now.
You know how in the old days people used to make sacrifices to the gods? That should be our mindset before Monday’s parade, which I’d argue is our best and last chance to convince Leonard to stick around.
I’m not suggesting we throw a virgin in a volcano or leave a slaughtered lamb on his doorstep — not unless he loves mutton — but we need to sweeten the pot and show Kawhi why Toronto is where he belongs.
Here are five ideas:
1. VIP Coupons
In a 2016 Sports Illustrated profile, we learned Leonard once “panicked” after losing coupons for free chicken wings at Wingstop, an eatery he sponsored. Here was a guy with a $94-million contract who nearly had a coronary after he misplaced fast-food vouchers? Every restaurant in the GTA should pay heed and hold a joint news conference before Monday’s parade to announce that, as long as Kawhi is a Raptor, his meals are on the house everywhere. Since he’s a homebody, delivery is also free. In fact, if Kawhi agrees to stay, he is hereby allowed to knock on any door and whoever answers must cook him whatever he wants.
2. Personalized Climate Control
I keep hearing one reason Leonard may bolt is that he’s not fond of our winters. While griping about the cold means he may already be a true Canadian, there are things we can do to minimize his frosty exposure. We already have the PATH system, right? Are you telling me we can’t build a private, underground tunnel that links Kawhi’s home to the Scotiabank Arena? Why don’t we install giant patio heaters on his favourite corners? Hell, if he agrees to stay, let’s construct a dome over the city and give him the remote control to the thermostat. It’s 30 degrees in January — thanks, Kawhi! You’re the best!
3. Kawhi Statues
Every great sports hero ends up immortalized in bronze. But we should not wait for tomorrow. Remember when Mel Lastman put moose sculptures everywhere? We should do that this summer with Kawhi statues. In King West, the cool Kawhi statue would be wearing EarPods. By the waterfront, the bare-chested Kawhi statue would be in shades and trunks. On the Danforth, the Kawhi statue would grin sheepishly as his gratis Saganaki is set ablaze. Life-sized figures in his likeness would greet him across town, a reminder of his beloved status as a living legend in the 6ix, which we’d also rename the 2wo while painting his face on the CN Tower.
A mural of' Kawhi Leonard in Toronto in May 2019.
4. Kawhi Leonard Day
John Tory is encouraging employers to give staff some time off on Monday for the parade. That is a half-measure, Mr. Mayor. This isn’t an election; it’s a celebration. In terms of cool, Leonard made you the new Norm Kelly. Look at the way people glorified your Raps blazer as if you were Tom Ford. The least you can do is lobby for a new national holiday. Should Kawhi Leonard Day be June 13, the day the Raptors won it all? Or June 29, Kawhi’s birthday? The best part is that, even if Leonard eventually leaves, we’ll still have a new vacation day. And we can spend it paying homage to him by lumbering around in stilts to replicate his six-foot-seven frame and speaking in metaphysical riddles and dousing every meal in Mango Habanero sauce. Kawhi Leonard Day is the holiday this country deserves.
5. Extreme Measures
After Thursday’s win for the ages, my heart dipped down from Cloud Nine when Kawhi told ESPN this first championship was “something that the Raptors can build on.” Speaking about the team as an outside observer? That was a telling slip of the tongue. But if he’s already planning to depart, screw it, we need extreme measures. Let’s kidnap him during Monday’s parade and take him somewhere nobody goes — maybe the Bata Shoe Museum — while demanding he stay. This MVP put the city on his back and carried us to the promised land. He is worth his weight in Bitcoin. He can’t just come here for one season and ghost us like it was a high school summer fling. He’s not a rental tux; he’s now a layer of our skin.
Kawhi, Toronto is begging you, please stay.
You complete us.
Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: