Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard takes a selfie holding his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team’s victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

‘Build this man a statue’: Twitter responds to Leonard’s move to Clippers

Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto

Raptors Twitter was ignited Saturday morning following reports that Kawhi Leonard will be signing with the Los Angeles Clippers.

But instead of anger or resentment for a player deciding to leave Toronto after just one season, the Twitter outpouring showed a Raptors fan base that was filled with gratitude for a superstar who led them to their first NBA championship in franchise history less than a month ago.

“Retire his jersey and build this man a statue,” tweeted Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who grew up in Toronto while his father played for the Maple Leafs. “No one can ever take away what he has done for this city and this country. What a ride. Thank you Kawhi!”

News of Leonard’s decision broke early Saturday morning, with a person familiar with the negotiations adding that the Clippers will be landing Leonard after they acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a massive trade for players and draft picks.

Leonard was arguably the most coveted prize in this year’s free agent market, and the 28-year-old met with several teams this week including the Lakers and Clippers — both in his hometown of Los Angeles — and the Raptors.

READ MORE: Kawhi Leonard to leave Raptors, sign with L.A. Clippers

Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov, who grew up in nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., tweeted: “Welcome home Kawhi. Thanks for everything.”

The news ended months of speculation and angst for Raptors fans who awaited Leonard’s decision for days after free agency opened last Sunday.

No one seemed to know which way Leonard was leaning. Some, like former Raptor turned TV analyst Jalen Rose were certain the star would return to Toronto. Rose said on air days ago he was “99 per cent hearing” Leonard would re-sign.

“I was wrong. Dead wrong,” Rose tweeted Saturday. “No one saw this timeline or the Clips also adding PG! Wow!!!”

The top 10 Twitter trends in Toronto were about the move on Saturday morning. Hashtags #ThankYouKawhi and #ThankYouDanny, for Danny Green — who announced he was signing with the Lakers shortly after Leonard’s decision was reported — were both trending.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who frequently wore a black blazer adorned with gold Raptors logos during the post-season and at the championship parade, sent out a message to Leonard in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“Maybe he didn’t like the jacket,” Tory quipped at the start of the video.

“Kawhi, you brought us a championship and that’s important in this city. We haven’t had many of those in recent times and it’s going to get us on a very positive wavelength where we’re going to have more,” Tory continued. “And make no mistake, when you come back here there’s going to be no mercy. We’ll still love you but there’s going to be no mercy when you come back here and play our Raptors because they’re going to be in it and they’re going to win it again.

“We just wish we could do it with you but we wish you all the very best and we say thank you very much for the inspiration and the excitement that you brought to Toronto and for the winner that you helped to bring to Toronto with your Raptor teammates.”

UFC fighter Max Holloway, a Honolulu native and known Raptors supporter, said on Twitter that he was “grateful to be a fan.”

“Don’t have to follow basketball to know Kawhi helped bring a lot more than a championship to Toronto,” Holloway said. “I’m just grateful to be a fan and got to witness it. I’m super happy the champ gets to go home now.”

Canada’s Olympic athletes also showed their support for Leonard via social media, including former kayaker Adam van Koeverden, the gold medallist from the 2004 Athens Games.

“Fun (guy) while it lasted,” van Koeverden said, referencing one of Leonard’s first quotes with the Raptors — which New Balance transformed into an ad campaign during the playoff run. “Onwards and Upwards, #WeStillTheNorth.”

Canadian Olympic track star Aaron Brown tweeted a photoshopped picture of Leonard dunking the Larry O’Brien trophy over Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who the Raptors beat in the Eastern Conference final.

“Kawhi Leonard will Forever be a Raptor Legend,” Brown said.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Snowfall warning for Kootenay and Paulson passes

Up to 30 cm expected in mountain passes Saturday and Sunday.

The art of community grieving

In recent weeks the Creston Valley has suffered multiple losses in the… Continue reading

PLACE NAMES: More on the great Creston Kootenay debate

Members of the Lost Kootenays Facebook site weigh in on whether Creston is in West or East Kootenay

Images art show and sale returns to Creston

The Images Art Show and Sale will be held on Nov. 23-24… Continue reading

Moose tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in northwest Montana

This is the first time the disease has been detected in the species in Montana

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

VIDEO: B.C. man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Most Read